When will Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, or Rick Santorum go after Ben Carson?

Two new polls of Iowa Republicans show Dr. Ben Carson has taken the lead from Donald Trump. Selzer & Co’s latest survey for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows Carson is the first choice of 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, followed by Trump at 19 percent, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (10 percent), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (9 percent), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (5 percent each), business executive Carly Fiorina (4 percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (3 percent), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Senator Rick Santorum (2 percent each), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (1 percent), and the rest of the field below 1 percent.

Similarly, Quinnipiac’s latest poll of likely Republican caucus-goers found Carson ahead of Trump by 28 percent to 20 percent, followed by Rubio (13 percent), Cruz (10 percent), Paul (6 percent), Fiorina and Bush (5 percent each), and no one else above 3 percent.

Carson is the best-liked candidate among those likely to participate in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Both the Selzer and Quinnipiac surveys found that 84 percent of respondents view him favorably. I’ve posted more excerpts from the poll write-ups after the jump.

Carson is crushing the competition among social conservatives, an important bloc that tends to break late in Iowa caucus campaigns, as Bleeding Heartland guest author fladem discussed here. He has invested heavily in direct mail and leaving copies of his paperback books on Iowa Republican doorsteps, while generally escaping scrutiny from his competitors.

At some point, other candidates who are appealing primarily to the religious right must recognize that their path to relevance in Iowa runs through Carson. Only 22 percent of Selzer poll respondents said their minds are made up; 78 percent could change their minds. I’m curious to see when 2008 winner Huckabee, 2012 winner Santorum, and/or Jindal will start making a case against the surgeon. To be stuck in the cellar after spending substantially more time in Iowa than Carson must be so frustrating.

Cruz may also need to give Iowans a reason not to support Carson. Perhaps some of his Christian conservative surrogates could take on that role. “Opinion leaders” backing Cruz include numerous evangelical clergy, talk radio host Steve Deace, and Dick and Betty Odgaard, the self-styled martyrs to marriage equality in Iowa.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Nick Ryan, who led the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund for several election cycles and headed the pro-Santorum super-PAC during the 2012 primaries, signed on earlier this year to lead a super-PAC supporting Huckabee. It might make more sense for that group to go after Carson than for Huckabee to do so directly. Still, the next GOP debate on October 28 would be a good opportunity for rivals to score points against the new Iowa front-runner.

From Jennifer Jacobs’ report for the October 23 Des Moines Register:

Even Carson’s most controversial comments — about Muslims, Hitler and slavery — are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers. The poll shows just two perceived weaknesses: his lack of foreign policy experience and his research using fetal tissue during his medical career. […]

The Iowa Poll of 401 likely Republican caucusgoers was conducted Oct. 16-19 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Trump’s backers think his forte is his forcefulness: He’ll stand up to anybody, they say.

Carson has a different superpower: His statements that he would be guided by his faith in God are an attractive attribute for 89 percent of likely caucusgoers. That’s topped only by the 96 percent who find his perceived common sense attractive. […]

Some controversial statements Carson has made are attractive in a majority of GOP caucusgoers’ eyes: 81 percent like that Carson has said Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery; 77 percent like that he has said Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler might not have been as successful if the people had been armed; and 73 percent like that he has raised questions about whether a Muslim should ever be president of the United States.

But the poll shows there’s some softness to Carson’s support. Only 15 percent of his backers say their mind is definitely made up. For Trump, a more substantial 32 percent say they won’t change their mind about him.

From Quinnipiac’s October 22 press release:

Trump tops the “no way” list as 30 percent of Iowa likely Republican Caucus participants say they “would definitely not support” him for the GOP nomination. Bush is next on this “no way” list with 21 percent.

For 28 percent of Republican Caucus-goers a candidate who shares their values is most important, while 23 percent most want a candidate who is honest and trustworthy.

Carson shares their values, 84 percent of Republicans say, and 89 percent say he is honest and trustworthy, topping the GOP field for both qualities. […]

“Today’s results show his appeal is especially strong among the state’s sizeable white, evangelical Christian community, among whom Carson is receiving 36 percent, twice Trump’s 17 percent,” Brown added.

“Those who know Carson seem to like him. He has an almost unheard of 84 – 10 percent favorability rating among likely Republican Caucus-goers, compared to Trump’s 53 – 43 percent rating. To borrow the line from Madison Avenue, ‘Almost no one doesn’t like Ben Carson.’”

Carson cares about their needs and problems, 87 percent of Iowa likely Republican Caucus participants say, the highest mark among any GOP candidate. […]

From October 14 – 20, Quinnipiac University surveyed 574 likely Iowa Republican Caucus participants with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.