GOP unites against Trump, Carson threatens third party run

Donald Trump
In this Dec. 3, 2015, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington. Republican voters don’t think Donald Trump is likable. They don’t think he’s compassionate. And many don’t consider him particularly honest. But the billionaire businessman is overwhelmingly viewed as decisive and competent. And that’s what matters, at least for now in the 2016 Republican primary contest. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The remaining Republican presidential candidates will gather on Tuesday for their final debate of 2015 and are expected to sharpen their attacks against front-runner Donald Trump.

The CNN debate, hosted in Las Vegas, will be the first time the GOP hopefuls have gathered together since the Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino, California.

Since the attack, several candidates have shifted their focus to security issues and have gone on the record about how they’d keep extremists from entering the United States. The debate will also likely focus on what a possible third-party run by either retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson or Trump could mean for the GOP nominee and their chances against Democrats next November.

“If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party,” said Ben Carson’s campaign after reports surfaced of a closed door meeting by party leaders to lay out a nomination strategy.

Polls show Trump’s edge

The latest polls, released throughout the week, indicate Trump remains on top in national standings but is seeing increased competition in early voting states.

A WBUR poll released on Friday showed Trump with a double-digit lead in the first primary state New Hampshire but continued to face increased competition from other candidates including: Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

New Hampshire Standings:
Trump (27%)
Christie (11%)
Rubio (11%)
Cruz (10%)
Bush (7%)

Over the past week, Trump faced increasing vocal opposition from his GOP competitors over plans to temporarily ban all Muslim immigration in the United States.

Within hours of making his announcement, several GOP leaders and candidates trashed the idea as the opposite of the values the party supports.

Democrats look to the general election

While the Republicans are nowhere close to consensus in choosing a nominee, polls indicate Democrats remain committed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A CBS/New York Times poll showed Clinton with a commanding lead over both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

National Democratic Standings:
Clinton (52%)
Sanders (32%)
O’Malley (2%)

The three remaining Democratic candidates are scheduled for their final debate of 2015 on Saturday Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

For the latest on the Race for the White House, follow national correspondent Mark Meredith on Twitter @markpmeredith.

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