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Donald Trump's front-runner status has virtually evaporated

carson and trump
carson and trump

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, left, and Donald Trump talk before the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on September 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, California.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has climbed into a virtual tie with real-estate magnate Donald Trump, according to a new poll.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday shows Carson with 20% support among Republican primary voters nationally, just one point below Trump.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) tied for third in the poll, both grabbing 11%, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) support sunk to 7%.

Trump and his campaign have attempted to play down and outright deny his slight dip and overall failure to gain ground in recent polls.

But the NBC/WSJ survey is more evidence, at least, of stagnation. Trump is up 2% from the same poll in July, while other candidates continue to gain on the man who has been the party front-runner for almost three months.

Earlier this week, Trump told Business Insider that the media was failing to highlight several polls and polling averages that still show him far ahead in the race for the Republican nomination.

"It's dishonest reporting and — let me change it — it's knowingly dishonest," Trump said. "Because the polls speak for themselves. I'm up. Check out Zogby. Check out Reuters — the Reuters — what do they call that? The Reuters average. Even The Huffington Post. Check all of them."

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski pointed out that other candidates — the majority of whom have never seen their support grow beyond single digits in the polls — would likely be thrilled to have Trump's level of support.

"If you were any other candidate in this race, you would welcome the opportunity to have Mr. Trump's poll numbers," Lewandowski said.

The campaign has been particularly unhappy with the narrative that Trump's support may have reached its ceiling.

Trump lashed out at The New York Times earlier this week for suggesting that the relatively small crowd size at a recent event was an indicator that the real-estate mogul may be struggling to expand his base of support.

"Dishonest @NYTimes reporter Jonathan Martin refused to acknowledge massive crowd surge forward during my speech in South Carolina. Liar!" Trump said this week in an Instagram post.

carly fiorina marco rubio
carly fiorina marco rubio

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Andrew Kelly)
Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio.

At the moment, Trump's numbers appear to have stalled. But he still maintains an ever so slight lead, and his numbers haven't dropped in the fashion of other candidates. Sunday's NBC/WSJ poll shows Bush down 7% from July, while it found Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with 5% support — down 4% from July.

Still, other political "outsider" candidates have continued to gain on Trump.

Sunday's NBC/WSJ poll also provides evidence the momentum Fiorina has built on the back of two strong debate performances. She had essentially no support when the previous NBC/WSJ poll was conducted in July, but has jumped into a tie for third place. Carson's support, meanwhile, has doubled since July, from 10% to 20%.

Trump also loses in head-to-head matchups against his Republican rivals in key early primary states.

A new Public Policy Polling poll out on Tuesday showed that Trump would lose to Carson and Rubio in Iowa if the election were held today.

In the conversation with Business Insider last week, Trump said he could not answer questions about if frequently emphasizing the strength of his poll numbers would come back to haunt him if his numbers begin to drop.

"I can't tell you," Trump told Business Insider. "My numbers have just gone up. I just can't tell you."

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