WASHINGTON • Some Republicans gleefully scripted Mr Donald Trump's political obituary in the wake of his scathing comments about Senator John McCain's military service earlier this month, hoping that his freewheeling presidential campaign had finally imploded.
Predictions of his demise were apparently premature. Instead, Mr Trump is gaining momentum ahead of next week's first Republican debate, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows.
The poll shows Mr Trump with his greatest support yet nationally, as nearly a quarter of Republicans surveyed said he would be their choice as the party's presidential nominee next year.
He has opened up a double-digit lead over his closest rival, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who trails at 12 per cent.
Mr Trump has surged since suffering a slight downtick in the wake of the McCain furore.
The five-day rolling online poll had the real-estate mogul and reality TV star at 15 per cent among Republicans last Friday before rocketing to 24.9 per cent on Tuesday.
Mr Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire and a former McCain adviser, said: "There are people who think his candidacy is a flash in the pan... but I think that underestimates his appeal."
But Mr John Feehery, a Republican strategist in Washington, expects Mr Trump's numbers to fall as the race intensifies and scrutiny of his candidacy increases. He said: "In time, people will see Trump is not who they want to have as a nominee."