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Ted Cruz takes first-ever lead in early state poll

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has taken his first-ever lead in an early state poll, surging past billionaire Donald Trump to the no. 1 spot in Iowa. 

In a Monmouth University poll released Monday, the Texas senator leads Trump 24 percent to 19 percent among likely caucus-goers. His support in the survey has spiked 14 percentage points since October. 

Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray partly attributed Cruz's rise to a collapse in support for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose numbers have dropped by 19 points since two months ago. Cruz has also been helped by the recent endorsement of U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, which Murray said "certainly put a stamp on the Cruz surge in Iowa."

Cruz is also performing strongly among evangelical voters, who tend to make up roughly half of the Iowa GOP caucus electorate. The survey found Cruz beating Trump 30 percent to 18 percent among evangelical voters.  

Besides Cruz and Trump, the only other candidates who registered double-digit support in the poll were U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 17 percent and Carson at 13 percent.

The Monmouth poll was done by telephone Thursday through Sunday with 425 Iowa Republicans considered likely to participate in the Feb. 1 caucuses. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percent.

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Laura Buckman/Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz speaks during his presidential campaign rally at the Fort Worth Stockyards on Sept. 3, 2015.