Trump neck and neck with Clinton after surge in polls
Donald Trump's support has surged and he is now running about even with Democrat Hillary Clinton among likely US voters, a dramatic turnaround since he became the Republican party's presumptive presidential nominee, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released yesterday.
The results could signal a close fight between the two likely White House rivals as Americans make up their minds ahead of the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
As recently as last week, Mrs Clinton led Mr Trump by around 13 points in the poll.
In the most recent survey, 41pc of likely voters supported Mrs Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, and 40pc backed Mr Trump, with 19pc not decided on either yet, according to the online poll of 1,289 people conducted from Friday to Tuesday.
The results reflect a big increase in support for Mr Trump since he knocked out US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich last week to become the last Republican in the White House race.
Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential primary contest remains alive following Bernie Sanders' emphatic win over Mrs Clinton in West Virginia, which raised fresh questions about her viability in a general election against Mr Trump.
The left-wing senator from Vermont was declared the winner after capturing more than 51pc of the vote to Mrs Clinton's 36pc, with around three-quarters of the ballots counted.
Although the result did little to alter the delegate count that puts Mrs Clinton on course to win the nomination, it was Mr Sanders' 19th primary and caucus victory over her during the campaign - a statistic seized upon by Republicans as evidence that the former US secretary of state would struggle to beat Mr Trump.
"Nothing short of embarrassing that Hillary Clinton has now been defeated 20 times by a 74-year old socialist from Vermont," Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican national committee, tweeted.
Mr Sanders' victory appeared to have been assisted by lingering anger over comments made by Mrs Clinton in March when she said that future government polices "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business".
She apologised several times for the remark, saying it was taken out of context on a campaign trip last week to West Virginia, whose economy is heavily dependent on coal mining.
Despite his victory, Mr Sanders gained only five more delegates than Mrs Clinton because of the Democrats' proportional award system. Going into the primary, Mrs Clinton had 2,228 of the 2,383 delegates she needs to clinch the nomination, compared with 1,454 for Mr Sanders.
She has been helped by having the support of the vast majority of super delegates - party activists and office holders - meaning that Mr Sanders' spate of primary wins has failed to close the gap between them.
Nevertheless, Mr Sanders declared he was "in this campaign to win" and challenged Mrs Clinton to a televised debate in California, which holds its primary on June 7, with 475 delegates at stake.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, recorded two emphatic victories in Republican primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska - winning 75 and 61pc of the vote respectively - that had been rendered non-competitive by the withdrawal of Mr Cruz and Mr Kasich, his last two opponents, from the race.
The results ended any lingering thoughts of Mr Cruz re-entering the race, something he had vowed to consider if he won the Nebraska primary. They will net Mr Trump around another 100 delegates, edging him closer to the 1,237 he needs to make his nomination as Republican candidate certain.
Separately, Mr Trump's campaign blamed a computer "data base error" for the inclusion of a prominent white nationalist on a list of his potential California delegates.
The campaign issued a statement saying the name of William Johnson had been withdrawn from the delegates list.
Mr Trump has already been embroiled in controversy over white supremacists after he was criticised for being too slow to disavow the support of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard.