Marco Rubio surged to second place in December among the field of Republican presidential candidates, overtaking a slumping Ben Carson and coming within striking distance of Donald Trump's top spot.
"A Quinnipiac University poll of Republican voters nationwide, released Wednesday, finds Trump leading the pack with 27 percent of the support, up from 24 percent last month. Rubio comes in second with 17 percent, up 3 points from November," Real Clear Politics reported
this week. "[Ted] Cruz has gained 3 points, garnering 16 percent of the support and tying Carson, who lost 7 points over the past month."
Gathered below are 10 reasons the senator from Florida has surged in the polls and overtaken Carson:
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1. Focus on foreign policy over Russia in Syria
— Last week, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syria-Turkey border, "the most serious incident between Russia and a NATO state in half a century," Reuters reported
. The situation raised the specter of the Cold War, and shifted attention away from domestic issues toward foreign policy. This has benefited Marco Rubio, as he's become the top pick for voters who say foreign policy is the most important issue in the 2016 election. Unlike Trump, who's never held public office, Rubio is seen as having the know-how to deal with complicated overseas conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War.
— Rubio leads the GOP pack when it comes to favorability ratings. A whopping 66 percent of likely Republican voters view him favorably, with a scant 8 percent viewing him unfavorably. By comparison, Trump and Carson have much higher unfavorable numbers, 27 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
3. Ben Carson slump
— The famous neurosurgeon from Detroit surged to second in the polls from October to November as voters looked for alternatives to political outsider Donald Trump. After garnering media scrutiny over his strange theories on the Egyptian pyramids and his seeming lack of foreign policy understanding, his polling cratered by nearly 7 points from November to December. During his slip in the polls, Carson ceded the second place spot to a consistently rising Rubio.
4. He is the most likely candidate to beat Hillary Clinton
— According to polling aggregated by Real Clear Politics
, Trump, Carson, and Cruz are likely to lose to Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, statistically speaking. Rubio, however is the lone Republican candidate who can beat her, as he edges her out by 3 points according to national polls.
5. Focus on terrorism after Paris attacks
— National security in the face of a growing ISIS threat has become a top issue in the 2016 race after deadly terrorist attacks rocked France in November. This shift in focus has boosted Trump, who's honed an image of strength in the minds of many voters, as well as Carson, and Rubio.
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6. Voters still open minded on range of candidates
— A vast majority of Republican primary voters, 65 percent, reported that they have not made up their mind when it comes to which candidate they'll vote for next year. This explains Rubio and Cruz's increases in the polls, as well as Carson's recent dip.
7. He's seen as a strong "insider" candidate
— Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina have all benefited during the race from having never held elected office, saying that it will take a political outsider like them to clean up Washington. Among GOP voters who value prior political experience, however, Rubio gets high marks. As the field of candidates thins over the coming months, expect to see Rubio pick up the supporters of candidates who are bound to drop out of the race.
8. He continues to turn in strong debate performances
— Rubio has been identified by voter and pundits on both the left and right as perhaps the strongest debater among over a dozen GOP presidential candidates. CNN wrote "Rubio steals the show" after the October debate, and similar headlines have been a boon to Rubio's campaign.
9. He's kept his campaign well-funded
— Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal dropped out of the presidential race after failing to gain traction and fundraise enough to keep their campaign operations running at full strength. Rubio has drawn support from billionaire Paul Singer, as well as big-time funders like Tony Pritzker, managing partner of the Pritzker Group and an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Variety reported
10. He has a proven track record of conservative victories
— Fox News reported
that Rubio is getting praise this week for a provision he put in last year's spending bill that prohibits billion-dollar bailouts for private insurers under the Affordable Care Act. "He saved us money on Obamacare where others have simply wanted to repeal it. He has already saved $2.5 billion by eliminating an unreasonable backstop by the taxpayers for a failed program," said Rep. Darrell Issa, former chairman of the House oversight committee, who endorsed Rubio on Monday.
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