Ben Carson leads in new Iowa poll. Trump toppling?

The magnitude of the jump and the sources of Mr. Carson’s support may indicate trouble for Mr. Trump in the months ahead.

Mike Stone/Reuters
US Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at the North Texas Presidential Forum hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas Oct.18, 2015.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson now leads Donald Trump in the crucial early caucus state of Iowa.

That’s what a new Quinnipiac University poll shows, at least. It puts Mr. Carson ahead of Mr. Trump by 28 to 20 percent among likely Republican caucus participants. That’s a near-reversal of their positions from September, when the real estate mogul/reality star led Carson, 27 to 21.

The only other GOP hopefuls to crack double digits in the new Quinnipiac numbers were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, at 13 percent, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 10 percent.

First, the obligatory warning: this is only one poll, and it’s early. How early is it?

It’s so early that at the same point in the 2012 election cycle eventual caucus winner Rick Santorum was drawing only 2 percent in a CNN poll.

That said, the magnitude of Carson’s jump here is impressive. And the sources of Carson’s support may indicate trouble for Trump in the months ahead.

The soft-spoken former doctor is particularly strong with women, where he tops Trump 33 to 13 percent, and white evangelical Christians, where his lead is 36 to 17.

“It’s Ben Carson’s turn in the spotlight,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

How will Trump react to that? He likes spotlights and generally he insists they be trained on him. He’s fond of emphasizing his poll leads from campaign podiums.

Perhaps now he’ll default to national surveys – he still leads the RealClearPolitics rolling average by about six points. He also remains over 13 points up in the first primary state of New Hampshire, which has relatively fewer evangelical voters.

“Iowa is a big problem for Trump. He doesn’t line up well there and starting w/ a loss would be tough look for him,” tweets Rich Lowry, editor of the right-leaning National Review.

Perhaps more important, how will the GOP establishment react to Carson’s Iowa bump? The Washington center/right wing of the party is already trying to blunt Trump’s popularity. It’s likely to try the same on Carson, another outsider candidate with few long-standing party relationships.

For instance, The Club for Growth, a key player among Republican anti-tax organizations, is unhappy about Carson’s economic positions. In particular the group complains in a just-released white paper that Carson has sometimes seemed open to some tax hikes on the rich and has supported a new government-run catastrophic health care program, among other apostasies.

“The full measure of his statements on economic liberty seems to indicate significant inconsistencies,” said Club for Growth president David McIntosh in a
statement.

The group’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to convince Iowa Republicans that Carson’s a dangerous squish. According to the new Quinnipiac survey, 84 percent of Republican voter in the state say Carson shares their values. That’s tops in the GOP field.

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