BY Aliyah Shahid
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The Donald is trumping his GOP competitors.
The billionaire real estate mogul has taken a rather shocking nine-point lead in a national poll of the hypothetical Republican presidential field, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling.
Trump leads with 26 percent, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (17 percent), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (15 percent) and ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (11 percent).
Rounding out the bottom of the list were former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (8 percent), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (5 percent), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (4 percent) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (4 percent).
Trump, whose potential candidacy has for weeks had many pundits snickering, has ridden his loud but debunked concern that President Obama wasn't born in America to the top of the GOP heap.
Some believe that Trump fares so well simply because he enjoys much better name recognition than the other candidates.
Other critics speculate he is using his presidential bid for publicity, which the 64-year-old television host denies.
"The fact is a lot of people in the polls don't vote for me because they think I'm just having a good time," Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Thursday. "They think that I'm promoting 'Celebrity Apprentice,' which I'm absolutely not."
Trump said he'd make a decision about a White House bid by the summer, when his show wraps.
Public Policy pollster Tom Jensen doubts Trump will really make a go at the presidency.
"But if he doesn't, someone who taps into the same sort of hard, hard right sentiment he's appealing to right now will get their votes - it's hard to imagine these folks voting for a more centrist candidate like Romney or Pawlenty," said Jensen.
"And that means there's a very serious contingent within the Republican Party that's less concerned with beating Barack Obama than having a nominee who gets them fired up," he added.