A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows that over the last month, while billionaire Donald Trump repeatedly was raising questions about Barack Obama's eligibility to be president – and even suggesting Obama's tenure might be illegal – he's been rocketing in popularity among possible GOP presidential candidates.
At the same time, oxygen has been sucked out of the support for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who both essentially have ignored the eligibility issue.
According to CNN's results, 19 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents questioned say likely would support Trump for the 2012 GOP nomination.
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The same percentage back former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has left the eligibility questions alone by saying there are other larger problems with which to deal.
Twelve percent say they would support former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, while Romney and Gingrich each were at 11 percent.
Seven percent said they are backing Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and 5 percent were behind Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Huckabee has said he'll be making a decision within weeks or months whether he will assemble an actual campaign, and Trump has made similar promises.
But a new report from CBS said Trump also is keeping open the possibility of running as an independent.
He told an interviewer for the Wall Street Journal, "I think Republicans are very concerned that I [may] run as an independent. … I could also possibly win as an independent, otherwise I wouldn't do it. I'm not doing it for any other reason. I like winning."
He noted the large percentage of people who now identify as independents – in some states, such as Colorado, independents outnumber the GOP and the Democratic parties.
"I'm sort of convinced you can actually win nowadays as an independent," he told the WSJ.
Trump suggested he might run as an independent if he didn't get the GOP nomination, but he also has concerns about splitting the support of conservatives, who largely identify with the GOP.
"The concern is that if I don't win, will I run as an independent, and the answer is probably yes. That bothers me only from the standpoint that if I don't win, we're not going to get a Republican, and Obama gets re-elected," he analyzed.
Another poll, by the WSJ-NBC, recently had Romney with 21 percent of the support and Trump tied with Huckabee at 17 percent.
Trump's support rose from only 10 percent just a month ago, while Romney's dropped from 18 percent to 11 percent.
CNN polling chief Keating Holland asked, "Are Republicans switching from Romney to Trump? Some are, but it's a lot more complicated than that, as you would expect with 11 potential hats in the ring.
"Only one in five Trump supporters say that Romney would be their second choice. It looks like Trump pulls as much support from Gingrich and Palin as from Romney, and Romney's support would go down even if Trump were not in the list of potential candidates."
The poll was done by telephone and reached 824 people, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Gingrich's support dropped from 14 percent to 11 percent over the period from March into April. Huckabee's remained the same at 19 percent, while Trump's nearly doubled from 10 percent to 19 percent.
If candidates are being named as a second choice, Huckabee continued to lead, with 16 percent, followed by Romney at 14 percent and Palin and Trump tied at 13 percent. Trump's standing as a second choice also rose from only 6 percent a month ago.
WND has reported on Trump's statements regarding Obama's eligibility.
"There's something fishy about the whole thing," Trump has said of Obama's background, birth story and constant refusal to release a wide range of documents that would reveal information about his heritage and upbringing.
He said he's convinced Obama doesn't have a birth certificate, or if he does, "there's something on that certificate that's very bad for him."
He noted that even Obama's own family members have been unable to agree at which hospital he was born.
Trump has said things like newspaper notices of a child being born really don't prove anything other than a child was born.
"I see so much fraud in this world, an ad like that could have been staged. I see so many fraudulent things going on that would be like the least of it," Trump said.
He suggested it was incredible that no doctor, nurse or other person has come forward to recall the birth of such a famous person.
Trump told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the significance of the dispute isn't clear to many people.
"If you are going to be the president of the United States you have to be born in the United States – and there is doubt [about Obama]," he said. "If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the great scams."
Trump also was on MSNBC, where he was asked whether it was a serious issue:
"There is certainly a chance that he was not born in this country. Now if he was not born in this country, that means he can't be president. It's very simple," Trump patiently explained.