Donald Trump makes a splash among Tea Partiers in new GOP 2012 poll

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Donald Trump, speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC), on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. The CPAC annual gathering is a project of the American Conservative Union. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Donald Trump, speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As he continues to make headlines by aligning himself with "birthers" and questioning President Obama's birthplace, a new poll shows Donald Trump is making headway among Republican voters.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the preferred candidate among Republican primary voters, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, with 21 percent support. Trump, however, is not far behind, tying former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for second place with 17 percent support.

The poll shows Trump receiving more support, 20 percent, than any other potential 2012 GOP nominee among Tea Party supporters. He was also the preferred candidate among those who identified themselves as the most conservative.

As many as 96 percent of voters surveyed recognized Trump's name, which would certainly help the business magnate and television personality overshadow lesser-known candidates like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Trump continues to receive more publicity for his insistence that Mr. Obama may not have been born in the United States -- a myth that has been firmly disproved by a copy of Mr. Obama's certificate of live birth, multiple birth announcements that ran in Hawaii newspapers when Mr. Obama was born, and fact checking by independent journalists.

Still, Trump pressed the issue on NBC's "Today" show this morning. "I'm not convinced that he has one," Trump said of the president's birth certificate.

While he is now the most recognized face of what's known as the "birther" movement -- a term Trump insists is derogatory -- Trump said he's also happy to be associated with the Tea Party.

"I'm very proud of some of the ideas they put forth," he said. "They want to stop this ridiculous, absolutely killer spending that's going on."

Some polls show Tea Partiers are more likely than other voters to say it's worth risking a government shutdown in order to bring about more federal spending cuts. On the "Today" show, Trump minimized the consequences of a government shutdown and said the blame for a shutdown would fall on the president.

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"If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president of the United States," he said. "How can you expect a man that's not a deal man... to corral all these people."

Beyond questioning Mr. Obama's origins, Trump has defined himself as a potential candidate as a savvy businessperson and a somewhat populist anti-interventionist.

He said that if he were to have a foreign affairs "doctrine," it would be: "We take care of ourselves first."

"We don't build schools in Afghanistan," he continued. "We go to Afghanistan, we build a road, we build a school. Two days later, they blow up the road, they blow up the school. In the mean time, we can't build schools in Alabama, in New Orleans, in Texas, in New York... My doctrine would be build, build, build."

While he's gaining traction among voters, Trump said he can't jump into the race before June because of his hit television program "The Apprentice."

"I have the No. 1 show on TV," he said. "You're not allowed to have a show on and be a declared candidate."

Though Trump suggests he is a serious candidate, it's questionable whether he could actually win the Republican primary. There are multiple factors that could work against him. For instance, in 2007, he praised former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "the best," and gave Mr. Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel $50,000 to run for mayor of Chicago.