Ben Carson bests Donald Trump on Facebook

Ben Carson, who boasts more than 5 million Facebook 'likes,' just surpassed front-runner Donald Trump to become the most popular GOP presidential candidate on Facebook. Is that enough?

Facebook screenshot
Ben Carson posted a Christmas message on Facebook.

A photo of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson holding a “Merry Christmas” sign went viral Friday evening on Facebook and helped the retired neurosurgeon become the most popular GOP contender on the social network.

“Not afraid to say Merry Christmas!” the retired neurosurgeon wrote in the caption.

More than half a million Facebook users have liked the post and nearly 45,000 have shared as of Saturday morning.

Dr. Carson, who boasts more than 5 million Facebook likes, has now surpassed front-runner Donald Trump to become the most popular presidential candidate on Facebook. Tapping in the American culture war over Christmas will play well with conservative Christian voters. 

But Facebook fame offers only a small piece of good news for Carson, who's been losing ground to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, according to the latest national polls.

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed the retired neurosurgeon has declined seven percentage points over the past month, falling out of the top ranks of GOP presidential front-runners. Carson is tied for third in the survey, with his total of 16 percent trailing Donald Trump (27 percent) and Marco Rubio (17 percent), and tying with the rising Ted Cruz, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Carson’s slide comes weeks after intense media scrutiny over stories about his adolescence as well as strong criticism for his lack of foreign policy experience.

Following Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, multiple polls suggest that Carson’s popularity was declining among GOP voters. And with the San Bernardino mass shooting, Republican voters are now focused on international and personal security. Most don't see this as Carson's strong suit.

During an interview with "Fox News Sunday" last month, Carson could not name a specific country or leader he would call to pull together an international coalition to counter ISIS (the Islamic State). He also incorrectly suggested that China was involved in the Syrian conflict.

But the explanation for Carson’s popularity, followed by a recent but rather steady decline, may be found in the annals of presidential campaign history, The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier notes:

What Carson is going through is a classic phase of discovery and decline. Voters liked what they heard about him initially, but they didn’t know that much about him. He’s a celebrity, sure, but much less of a celebrity than Trump.

Now they’ve learned more, and a certain number of GOP voters have decided to look elsewhere. This was a defining characteristic of the 2012 race. Michele Bachmann rose and fell. So did Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum.

On Tuesday during the final Republican debate of the year, Carson did little to turn things around.

Mike Allen wrote for Politico,

Ben Carson is like his polls – fading. His set piece about aging Ohio Class submarines, Minuteman 3 missiles and B-52 bombers sounded like what it was: the product of cramming, and trying too hard.

Saying “boots on the ground” three times in one sentence does not constitute a fluent foreign policy. His run-on sentences defy diagramming, and he winds up look like he’s playing his own “Saturday Night Live” character.

The night’s big message: This field is smaller than it looks.

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