Texas Senator Ted Cruz is now the frontrunner in the first-in-the-nation voting state of Iowa, 10 points ahead of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released late Saturday.
"Big shakeup," said J. Ann Selzer, the pollster, according to The Des Moines Register. "This is a sudden move into a commanding position for Cruz."
The poll shows Cruz with 31 percent of the GOP support, and Trump with 21 percent.
Cruz had stayed away from criticizing Trump until recently when he expressed disagreement with Trump's call to temporarily ban the immigration of Muslims into the the country.
"From the beginning of this campaign, we've talked about uniting courageous conservatives to reignite the promise of America and keep our nation safe," Bryan English, Cruz's Iowa state director, said after the release of the poll Saturday, according to NBC News. "We have more work to do, but we can definitively say the message is working."
The day before the release of the poll, Trump also spoke out against Cruz at a town hall in Des Moines. "The one guy that's going pretty good with me in Iowa is Ted Cruz. He's a nice guy. But with the ethanol, really it's — he's got to come a long way cause he's right now for the oil." Trump was apparently alluding to Cruz's stand against the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Earlier this month, a Monmouth University poll in Iowa showed Cruz leading with 24 percent, followed by Trump with 19 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 17 percent.
Cruz has been consistently wooing evangelical leaders. In an interview with EWTN News last week, Cruz said he is convinced that 2016 is going to be a religious liberty election, and that he will push for legislation to protect people's rights against any possible discrimination or persecution from the federal government. "This has been a life's passion fighting for it, and I'm convinced 2016 is going to be a religious liberty election. I've hosted now two religious liberty rallies, one in Iowa, one in South Carolina, they both had 2,000-3,000 people come out," he said.
On Thursday, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta said at a private fundraising event in Berkeley, California, that Cruz is the likeliest nominee, followed by Trump, and then Rubio, according to Politico.
Also on Thursday, Bob Vander Plaats, who heads the Family Leader group, endorsed Cruz.
"This is a guy that's been very consistent in principles, in communications, and his campaign has shown ability to slowly gain ground and build momentum, and appears to have great staying power," he told Politico. "I don't see his numbers going down, I see them going up."
On Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage and conservative Richard Viguerie also endorsed Cruz.
A New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll, released Friday, showed that nearly two-thirds of American voters say they are concerned or frightened about the prospect of a Trump presidency.
However, according to that poll, Trump had the support of 35 percent of Republican primary voters, followed by Cruz with 16 percent, and Ben Carson with 13 percent.
A poll by Rasmussen Reports, also released Friday, shows that 70 percent of Republican voters believe Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee.