Jeb Bush

By Alexandra Jaffe, CNN
updated 1:15 PM EST, Sun December 28, 2014
Source: CNN

Washington (CNN) — Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he’s “actively exploring” a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found.

He takes nearly one-quarter — 23% — of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tallied 13%.

RELATED: Read the entire CNN/ORC poll here

Physician Ben Carson comes in third, with 7% support, and Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are both tied for fourth with 6%.

That marks a drop in support for all but Christie and Bush from the last CNN/ORC survey of the field, conducted in November. That poll showed Bush in the lead, but only taking 14% of the vote, while Carson came in second with 11% and Christie tied Rep. Paul Ryan for fourth with 9% support.

Bush’s 10-point lead is a milestone for the potential GOP field — it marks the first time any prospective candidate has reached a lead beyond a poll’s margin of error in the past two years.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still far and away the favorite to take the Democratic nomination for president if she runs, with the support of two-thirds of Democrats polled. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal favorite, comes in a distant second place with just 9%.

Bush would still face some skepticism from GOP primary voters if he ran, but the CNN/ORC poll shows they are largely willing to forgive him for some of his more controversial comments and positions.

GOP primary voters are about evenly split on whether his support for allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the United States makes them more or less likely to support him, or has no difference on their opinion of him.

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