Billionaire real estate mogul and television star Donald Trump leads all other likely Republican contenders for the presidency in 2012 by nearly double-digits, survey data released Thursday showed.
Even though the 2012 campaigns have only just gotten underway, for months now pollsters have been unable to point out a clear Republican frontrunner.
Now, that seems to have changed.
The Democrat-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling, in their latest monthly update on Obama's potential Republican challengers, found that at 26 percent, Trump is leading the runner-up -- former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee -- by nine percent among Republican voters nation-wide.
Other likely candidates pollsters asked about included: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (15 percent); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (11 percent); former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (8 percent); Texas Congressman Ron Paul (5 percent); former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (4 percent); and Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (4 percent).
The poll also found that a full 23 percent of Republican voters would not cast their ballot for a candidate who believes the president is an American citizen. Keying in on this, Trump has been making headlines lately by claiming he thinks there's something to the bizarre allegations that the president is secretly from Kenya or Indonesia -- which likely explains his surging support among Republicans.
Other recent polls have found that the conspiracy tale is so widely accepted by Republicans that nearly half of the GOP voters in New Hampshire say they doubt the president is an American.
For their part, Republican leaders have largely dismissed the conspiracies has frivolous at best and damaging to the party at worst, but because the fictional narrative had been so propelled by conservative media and many leading Republicans, it seems to have stuck. Now some in the Republican Party are having difficulty confronting the issue, and some even appear to be afraid of offending the so-called "birthers."
In a recent interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos, he laughed off the birthers' allegations and called their claims a Republican messaging strategy that was "politically expedient in the short-term," but would likely come to harm their chances of defeating him next year.
Many have also suggested that Trump's "campaign" may not be entirely serious: that he may only be doing it to get his show on NBC renewed for another season.
President Obama released his birth certificate has been released for public viewing and verified by reporters. In addition, the governor of Hawaii and the director of the state's health services have both said the document he released -- which is actually the most detailed version of the certificates Hawaii issues -- is authentic.
Read the poll results here (PDF).