By Brian Montopoli, senior political reporter at CBSNews.com.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork.com) – Reality television host and developer Donald Trump has risen to a tie for first among potential GOP presidential contenders, according to a new national poll.
Nineteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey that they are most likely to back Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.
That put him in a tie at the top of the list with former Arkansas governor and 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee, who also received 19 percent support.
Rounding out the top five were former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 12 percent support, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 11 percent support and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also with 11 percent support. They were followed by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 7 percent support and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 5 percent support.
Trump has risen ten points from a similar poll taken by the same organization last month.
Still, it would be premature to conclude that Trump has become a viable contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they didn’t want to see him run; his relatively strong showing in the poll would seem to reflect both the media-savvy Trump’s high level of name-recognition and the fact that the GOP electorate has not yet coalesced around a candidate.
Trump has been making the media rounds talking up a candidacy and pushing discredited theories and false information about President Obama’s birthplace. The “birther” rhetoric has meant a backlash among prominent African-Americans, as Politico’s Ben Smith reports.
“There’s a lot of people that I’ve talked to [who] instinctively think that he’s using the issue as a proxy for race,” Urban League President Marc Morial told Politico. “I don’t know if it has resonance in the Republican Party but I certainly think it has resonance in certain far right elements of the American public.”
Trump said Monday that if he loses the GOP nomination he will “probably” run for the presidency as an independent. Skeptics question, however, whether he is seriously considering a run or is simply engaged in a disingenuous effort to drum up publicity for his reality show, which ends in June.
It’s a charge Trump denies.
“I don’t need to do this for ratings on ‘The Apprentice,’” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “This is too important, our country is in trouble, our country is not being properly led.”