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What's behind Carly Fiorina's surge?

A few days after the Republican debate, Carly Fiorina has soared to second place while Trump's popularity slid. 

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Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina addresses the 2016 Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Carlos Osorio

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Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina surged to second place in the GOP field following the CNN debate last week, a new poll finds.

A CNN/ORC poll released Sunday shows Fiorina with 15 percent support, up from 3 percent in early September. Donald Trump still leads the race for next year’s GOP presidential nomination, with 24 percent. But that figure represents an 8 percent drop, from 32 percent in a similar poll conducted earlier this month.

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Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson polled at 14 percent, a decline from 19 percent. Marco Rubio polled at 11 percent. No other Republican White House hopeful cracked double digits.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush netted 9 percent. He's followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who tied with 6 percent each, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 4 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 3 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 1 percent.

The polls found five other candidates receiving less than one-half of 1 percentage point support: former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

How did Fiorina soar to the second place? Her strong performance in the second televised GOP presidential debate Wednesday has a lot to do with it. According the CNN, “31% of Republicans who watched said Trump was the loser, and 52% identified Fiorina as the winner.”

Chris Cillizza, in his "The Fix" blog, asserted with confidence that Carly Fiorina did great during Wednesday's night debate.

The former HP executive won the so-called "kiddie-table" debate last month. She stepped up to the big stage on Wednesday night and won this debate too. Her emotional call to a higher moral authority when talking about Planned Parenthood was the most affecting moment of the debate. The second most affecting moment of the debate was when she talked about how she had buried a stepchild due to drug addiction. Fiorina's answer to Trump's comments about her looks was pitch-perfect and brought a huge roar from the crowd. She was poised, well versed -- particularly on foreign policy -- and beat back attacks on her time as CEO of HP relatively well.

The new polls indicate that Trump wins on immigration, with 47 percent saying he could best address the issue, ahead of second-place Rubio's 15 percent and Bush's 9 percent

Asked who would best handle the economy, about 44 percent of likely GOP voters said Trump. Fiorina came in second at 11 percent, Rubio third at 10 percent and Bush fourth at 8 percent.

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The CNN/ORC poll is a traditional telephone survey. It questioned 1,006 adult Americans from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.