Marco Rubio remains evangelical leaders' top pick among GOP presidential bets

Republican presidential candidate and US Senator Marco Rubio listens to a question from the audience during a campaign town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on Aug. 26, 2015.Reuters

Because of his charisma and strong performance in the recent presidential debate, Florida Senator Marco Antonio Rubio remains to be the top Republican presidential pick among evangelical leaders, further widening his lead against his competitors.

In a monthly survey of 103 evangelical leaders and insiders, 53 percent of the respondents said Rubio is either their first or second choice among all Republican presidential hopefuls.

This month saw a double-digit rise in Rubio's ratings, showing that more and more evangelicals are throwing their support to him. Last July, Rubio got a combined 39-percent rating.

Southern Evangelical Seminary president Richard Land, one of the survey participants, even compared Rubio to a well-loved former US president.

"Many of the candidates running for the Republican nomination are impressive, but Marco Rubio reminds me more of Jack Kennedy every day... Whatever charisma is, he's got it," Land said.

Coming a distant second is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who got 29 percent support from the respondents who selected him as either their first or second choice. His numbers improved by 4 percent from last month.

Another big winner in the recent survey among evangelical leaders is businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who ranked third in the latest poll. Due to her well-received performance in the presidential debate, Fiorina got the support of 25 percent of the survey participants.

"Carly Fiorina's debate performance and subsequent ability to articulate a cogent message on economic and foreign policy has earned her the attention of voters," survey respondent Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, commented.

In contrast, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the biggest loser in the survey among evangelical leaders. He crashed to fourth place after placing second during the last poll, suffering an eight-percent drop in his figures.

Evangelical leaders generally point to Bush's performance in the presidential debate as the cause of his lower ranking.

Controversial businessman Donald Trump, who has been leading the Republican field in national polls, contrary to reports, still does not impress evangelical leaders, with only five percent expressing support for him.