Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I hate to say I told you so, but....
Ben Carson has taken a narrow lead nationally in the Republican presidential campaign, dislodging Donald J. Trump from the top spot for the first time in months, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released on Tuesday.

Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the choice of 26 percent of Republican primary voters, the poll found, while Mr. Trump now wins support from 22 percent, although the difference lies within the margin of sampling error.

The survey is the first time that Mr. Trump has not led all candidates since The Times and CBS News began measuring presidential preferences at the end of July.
I predicted a few weeks ago that he was going to move into the lead -- as he's already done in Iowa, according to three recent polls. I said that his extreme statements were likely to cause a poll surge, even as the mainstream media called them gaffes. And I told you that the suspension of his campaign for a weeks-long book tour was just campaigning by other means.

But what happens now? As Donald Trump's lead persisted for months, he struck me as someone who really could hang on for the long haul, because he was giving crazy-base voters a combination of boorish "political incorrectness" and the sense that he had a Master of the Universe's can-do spirit. I think it's possible that he and Carson could go nose to nose all the way to the voting -- as we're told by the Times,
The new poll found that Mr. Trump’s supporters are firmer in their support than Mr. Carson’s. A majority of Trump supporters, 55 percent, said their minds were made up.
Whereas, for Carson,
... 80 percent of Carson backers said it was too early to say for sure that they would eventually support him.
But can Trump continue to send a tingle up his voters' legs if he's not the alpha dog in the polls? Oliver Willis is right:

If Trump is stuck at #2, will he fade? Will he start sounding like -- oh, what's the word I'm looking for? -- a loser?

I know that's what the GOP Establishment hopes for. But that's accompanied by a hope that Carson will also fade -- and I think it's extremely unlikely that GOP voters' desire to toss a bomb into the whole system by voting for a real outsider will fade. The only scenarios I can imagine in which both Trump and Carson fade involve a Fiorina resurgence (though, as I said last month, she's just not the kind of cheerily nasty good ol' gal GOP voters like, i.e., not a Sarah Palin or Joni Ernst) or possibly a Cruz surge (though he's in government, which, to GOP voters, means he has the chance to blow the system up and he's failing -- I know he's just waiting to hoover up Trump's voters after a Trump fade, but the new poll has him languishing at 4%).

I wonder, though, how Carson is going to weather the inevitable opposition-research attacks spoon-fed to various media outlets. Is there anything that can undermine him? I think, to some extent, he'll have some of Trump's Teflon -- it won't matter if there are embarrassing facts in his past, or heterodox opinions. We already know that he used to believe in some gun control, but he's been so pro-gun lately that his fans don't care. We know he was prone to violence as a youth, but only because he's told us that himself. To GOP base voters, there's an "Amazing Grace," "I once was lost but now I'm found" quality to both of these transformations.

I think the Establishment (and Trump) simply might not know how to attack him. Here's Joe Scarborough telling us that, good heavens, the man doesn't know how to run anything!

GOP voters don't care. They think the people who've demonstrated that they can't be president are the professional politicians, whose failure is manifested in the fact that they haven't driven liberal and moderate policies and officeholders from government altogether. GOP voters assume Trump and Carson can't do worse, so they'd probably do better. The one thing Republican voters don't want to hear is that a candidate has honed his chops in government. (I'm talking to you, Jeb -- that's never going to work.)

Trump, I think, is screwing up by talking about Carson's religion -- you're from the Northeast, Donald, so you have no idea how Christian religiosity is interpreted in the heartland.

Carson seems easier to attack than Trump, because he doesn't fight back as hard -- but some voters suddenly want an unabashedly "politically incorrect" candidate who isn't loud, and in order to appeal to those voters it's strategically shrewd for Carson not to hit back (as long as he continues to demonize abortion rights supporters, gun control advocates, and other favorite right-wing Antichrists).

With all this going on, could an Establishment candidate nudge his way into the race? I think only if other Establishment candidates drop out -- in this poll, Marco Rubio is 8 percent and Jeb is at 7. If Jeb were to quit and Rubio were to get get his votes, there's an Establishment candidate at 15 percent. But Jeb is never going to regain his mojo, though he's not going to drop out until after several contests. He's going to pull just enough votes from Rubio (the most-liked Establishmentarian) to keep Rubio from rising. (

So I think this will continue to be a two-man race, and Carson really might have a chance of winning it.


Grung_e_Gene said...

And the election is still a year away. Sigh...

Rand Careaga said...

GOP voters don't care.

Honey badger doesn't give a shit.

Unknown said...

Grung, I agree. We're still MONTHS away from shootin' primaries, and that's just the Stoopid States. After those, things get wild & wooly, especially for someone who's got next to no ground game.

Also, what is it we've come to know since 2006 that's best about polls? That their main reliability derives from their sheer numbers and variaty. "A" poll can be an outlier, and even a number of polls from a relatively brief time period can be Herman Cain On A Roll before he says or does something or something stinky sudden hits critical public awareness and whoops, DOWN goes the Brain Man!

Steve M. said...

But you have to recognize that things are happening that are beyond "poll blips" a la Cain in 2011. An ignoramus with no political experience -- either Trump or Carson -- has led in every poll for three months. And whichever ignoramus it was had a double-digit lead over every actual politician in nearly every poll. That's not a blip, that's a trend. The not-Romneys four years ago at least included pols with a lot of experience -- Santorum, Gingrich, even Bachmann. This is new, and it persists.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Unknown and Steve M.

These do appear to be more than just blips, but without a single vote having been cast I'm not ready to proclaim it's the new normal. But, perhaps the unhinged conservatives who have been lining up and dutifully voting for the RINOs for decades have broken free and are ready to vote for the craziest conservative they can find.

Anonymous said...

The margin of error on this poll is six percent. WTF? That's not a poll result - that's the press lining up Carson and Trump and saying "hey - how about you and him fight because we need some narrative for the next few weeks".

The press is desperate for a horse race and since Carson has been at the number 2 slot they're pumping Carson to try to get it. Carson does really well in Iowa because the Iowa GOP has been groomed over the years to be completely bugfuck nuts - they voted for Mike Huckabee in '08 and Rick Santorum in '12.

I mean, the press might be able to push Carson up over Trump if they keep at it - and I will admit that Trump's biggest weakness is that his ego might not be able to take even a single poll where someone looks like they're beating him. But for crying out loud with a MOE of 6% having them poll that close is basically saying that they might be neck-and-neck and some more targetted polling needs to be done to make sure. It certainly isn't the case that this poll says that Carson is now beating Trump by any meaningful metric.

Yastreblyansky said...

"you have no idea how Christian religiosity is interpreted in the heartland"

What if they find out Carson believes they'll go to Hell for going to church on Sunday instead of Saturday?

rickstersherpa@msn.com said...

I think Trump goes back to the "rapists & murderous" Mexicans meme, building the Wall, & dumping all the trade & arms deals & making the foreigners eat shit memes." Carson's new promise to persecute liberals & scientists who offend Christian conservatives will be big hit with the base. http://www.salon.com/2015/10/27/the_gop_primarys_theocratic_x_factor_inside_the_twisted_worldview_and_junk_history_of_david_barton/

Steve M. said...

What if they find out Carson believes they'll go to Hell for going to church on Sunday instead of Saturday?

My sense is that they don't really care about these doctrinal differences anymore -- hell, in the Protestant South in 2012 they went nuts for a Catholic, Rick Santorum. At this point they divide the world into (a) people who are crazy for the Christian God and (b) Satanic evil secularists (i.e., all of us, even liberal believers).

Steve M. said...

(Right-wing Jews are cool, too.)

Professor Chaos said...

It doesn't matter what skeletons they find in Carson's closet. There's nothing the Christian Right loves Bette than an "I used to be a sinner, but now I'm saved" story. They have nonprobl with the fact that he used to be a violent thug because that was before he read the Book of Proverbs and saw the light.

If David Vitter can still have a political career after his prostitution scandal , the old "it's okay, God has forgiven me" gambit can work for anyone.

ladyblug said...

FFS~ I just can't believe what is happening! This whole thing is frightening! Osama Bin Laden has won! We are chasing evil, and it can't be caught. We are a frightened and frightening nation, and also a laughing stock of the world. How can anyone take us seriously, when we have the "American Taliban" running for POTUS! I am disgusted!

Unknown said...

The thing about attacking a rival's way-fringee kook-a-loon belief system isn't that it won't work to hurt the crackpot; the problem is, it's like orders from high to take Pork Chop Hill or like that extended scenario in the Blue Line: whoever does it MIGHT get a frickin' medal, maybe, but they also stand a big chance of getting very quickly dead, and even over time they find themselves vulnerable to getting swift-boated.

So, this shows up a problem that's peculiar to messianic-style candidate-centric campaigns: a guy like Trump has to do his own dirty work or else it don't get done. That's not optimal; the more effective way to get 'er down is without getting blood and shit all over you, by having a surrogate Sununu your rival.

I mean, one of the enduring memories of the 2008 Dem primary process wasn't really Obama & HRC hurling grenades at each other, it was in the the Wars of the Campaign Surrogates: that's where the really nasty crap happened, the stuff that drove hard-slogging entrails-examining bloggers like eriposte at the left coaster bananas.

Trump may well succeed in attracting third parties to the anti-Carson the Whacko crusade (David Corn's sure all-in on it - & was even before Trump said a word on it.); but it's Trump that the fly-over fundies are going to blame for throwing manure bombs at Saint Ben.