The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Friday, the day before the primary, found Trump leading the GOP pack with 28% of the vote. But Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is nipping at his heels with 23%. In the same poll in January, Trump was leading Cruz by 16 points, 36% to 20%. The survey was conducted before Pope Francis said Thursday that Trump is "not Christian," remarks Trump called "disgraceful."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio comes in third place in the new poll at 15%, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 13%, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 9% and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also at 9%. The South Carolina campaign has already set a new bar this year for nasty, bloodthirsty politics, and that promises only to intensify before polls close Saturday evening.
The survey of 722 likely primary voters, conducted Feb. 15-17, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.