The Hill

By Lisa Hagen
12/24/15 – 06:00 AM EST

Donald Trump may be getting the best gift of all this holiday season, as he enters 2016 firmly on top in the Republican race for the White House.

The GOP presidential hopeful has proved the doubters wrong, solidifying a double-digit lead in national polls while running one of the most unorthodox campaigns in history.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) — who has seen his support plunge amid Trump’s rise — predicted at a private Dallas fundraiser in mid-November that Trump would falter by the next GOP debate.

“Come December 15, Trump will be in decline,” Bush reportedly said.

But on the eve of Christmas, Trump still tops the Republican field by 17 points, even as Bush lags behind in the single digits.

“He’s obviously been able to defy political gravity for much of this campaign,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said, noting Trump’s advantages of being a celebrity and attracting heavy media coverage.

The latest national polls confirm that Trump’s momentum isn’t slowing down. Within the past week, the real estate mogul:

• topped the field in a post-debate survey from Public Policy Polling, increasing his lead by 8 points;

• bested the second-place finisher by 4 points in a Quinnipiac University poll;

• and opened up a 21-point lead in a CNN/ORC International poll.

Trump frequently boasts about his poll numbers on Twitter, using them to fight back against a media he says is biased against his candidacy.

The poll numbers highlight how Trump has displaced President Obama as the central player on the political stage, with both parties reacting daily to his insults, tweets and attack lines.

His dominance is something few political observers would have predicted back on Jun. 15, when he entered the presidential race with a rambling launch speech that some people were allegedly paid to attend.

But Trump quickly gained momentum during the summer, with tens of thousands of people flocking to his rallies to hear how he planned to “make America great again” by deporting illegal immigrants and taking on China.

And even as he’s fired up crowds, the businessman and former reality television star has courted controversy at every turn, creating a steady stream of conflict that has kept his name in the headlines.

Conventional wisdom held that the political storms generated by Trump — most recently from his call to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States — would be fatal to his candidacy.

Yet six months after his entry in the race, Trump sits atop national polls with 35.1 percent support, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.

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