By Alana Wise
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has taken the lead in the early-voting state of Iowa, surpassing both Donald Trump, who holds the lead in most national surveys, and Ben Carson, who has scored strongly in the state in recent months, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Monday.
The poll of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, which in February 2016 will hold the first contest in the Republican presidential nomination process, Cruz had the support of 24 percent.
That marked a jump from the 10 percent of caucus-goers who supported Cruz in October and 9 percent in August. Trump was in second place with 19 percent, followed by Marco Rubio with 17 percent and Ben Carson at 13 percent.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, has benefited from a decline in support for Carson. Both Republicans have a strong base of support with evangelical voters, who make up a large bloc among likely caucus-goers in Iowa.
But Carson has seen his poll numbers drop amid missteps in some of his comments about national security in the aftermath of the attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris.
As recently as October, Carson was leading in the Monmouth poll, with the support of 32 percent of caucus-goers. In August, he was tied with Trump at 23 percent.
The poll surveyed 425 likely Iowa caucus-goers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
(Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Alan Crosby)
Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks to a supporter after his speech at a 2nd Amendment Coalition announcement at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/p>