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.

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CNN Republican debate discussion thread

Eleven GOP candidates are just starting the “varsity” debate on CNN now. I will update this post later with some clips and thoughts. This thread is for any comments about today’s debates or the presidential race in general.

I only caught part of the first debate, featuring four candidates who didn’t make the cut for prime time. But from what I saw of Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum, I think former Libertarian candidate for Iowa secretary of state Jake Porter said it best: “It is like the comments section decided to run for President and is now debating on live TV.”

10 PM UPDATE: My immediate reaction is that Carly Fiorina had an excellent debate, except for her closing statement, which sounded too memorized and rehearsed. Some of what she said was false (for instance, her comments about the Planned Parenthood videos), but that will go over well with the GOP base viewers. She did exceptionally well at modulating her voice, so that she sounded forceful and knowledgeable but also calm and steady. Everyone expected her to have a good comeback against Donald Trump, and she did, but it wasn’t just that answer. She was able to articulate a credible-sounding response on most of the topics that came up. She also produced the “most-tweeted moments” during the debate.

Trump made little sense, as usual. He started out as a caricature of himself, bragging about how many billions of dollars he has made. He claimed to have fought hard against going to war in Iraq–will be interesting to see whether there is any evidence to back that up. I don’t remember Trump speaking out against the war. I was surprised to hear Trump argue that vaccines can cause autism if kids get too many close together. I would guess that won’t hurt him.

Ben Carson gained the most from the first debate, and I don’t think he lost any ground tonight. That’s bad news for Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who are fighting hard for evangelical support but didn’t seem to make their mark in this debate.

Chris Christie had more strong moments tonight than in last month’s Fox debate. I think he will gain more than John Kasich, who is essentially fighting for the same Republican moderate voters.

Rand Paul didn’t make a big impression during most of the debate, but he did well during the discussion on drug policy, especially calling out Jeb Bush for wanting to lock up poor people for using the same drugs Jeb used as a young man.

Bush had the second-most speaking time after Trump, and he landed some decent punches, but overall, I question whether he gained many supporters. He didn’t do a terrible job, though it was laughable when he suggested putting Margaret Thatcher on the ten-dollar bill.

Scott Walker had the least speaking time, according to NPR, and didn’t create any memorable moment. This event won’t reverse his falling poll numbers.

I saw some people saying on social media that Marco Rubio had a good night. The only comment that stood out for me was his saying his grandfather taught him about the American Dream in Spanish. Otherwise, I am still baffled by what so many people see in Rubio.

It was a huge mistake for the Democratic National Committee not to schedule any debates between the first two Republican clashes. The contrast in the level of discourse would have been tremendous for the Democratic candidates.  

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Trump, Carson way ahead of second tier in Quinnipiac's latest Iowa poll

Outsiders reign supreme in Quinnipiac’s latest poll of “likely Republican Caucus participants” in Iowa. Click here for the polling memo and full results. After the jump I’ve posted a couple of tables from the release.

Donald Trump is the first choice of 27 percent of participants, with Ben Carson not far behind at 21 percent. Carson leads among self-identified “born-again evangelicals” in the respondent pool. Among all respondents, Ted Cruz places a distant third at 9 percent, followed by Jeb Bush (6 percent), Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio (5 percent each), Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and don’t know/not answer (4 percent each).

Just a couple of months ago, Scott Walker led Quinnipiac’s Iowa poll with 18 percent support. The latest survey puts him in tenth place with 3 percent.

Adding today’s data to findings from other recent surveys, I believe we can answer the question Bleeding Heartland posed about the Wisconsin governor in March. Despite getting a decent head start here, Walker is looking like the second coming of Tim Pawlenty.

Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread.

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Labor Day weekend open thread, with new Iowa caucus polls

Happy Labor Day weekend to the Bleeding Heartland community! This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Click here for a brief history of the holiday.

For those wanting to enjoy the outdoors during the unofficial last weekend of summer, you may find some inspiration in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ list of fourteen “incredible hikes in our state parks and forests,” here and here. I’m embarrassed by how few of those parks I have visited, but I can highly recommend the walking trails at the Ledges and Dolliver Memorial State Parks.

Three more polling firms have released new Iowa caucus surveys since last weekend’s Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg news. Highlights are after the jump. All recent polls put Donald Trump and Ben Carson well ahead of the rest of the Republican field in Iowa. Bernie Sanders has clearly gained some ground on Hillary Clinton, but other polls have found a larger lead for the Democratic front-runner here than Selzer did.

Eric Boehlert was quick to criticize the media for giving Selzer’s poll of Iowa Democrats such big play last weekend, even though it looks like an “outlier” in his view. I take his point, but the last time I said a Selzer poll appeared to be an outlier, I had to eat my words.

Before I get to the polls below, here’s one for the “campaigns don’t matter” crowd, who believe economic conditions largely decide presidential elections. The Moody’s Analytics model “now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote,” with 326 electoral votes for the Democratic nominee and 212 to the Republican. Click through for more information on the Moody’s methodology.

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A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll to give the GOP establishment nightmares

Selzer & Co’s new survey of Iowa Republicans for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News gives GOP strategists plenty to worry about.

The top three “outsider” candidates (Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz) are the first choice for 49 percent of respondents. The top three “establishment” candidates (Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio) are the first choice for only 20 percent.

The survey also indicates that several candidates considered heavyweight contenders are yesterday’s news for likely GOP caucus-goers. The 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee is sitting at 4 percent, tied with Rand Paul, who had been expected to inherit much of his father’s support from the last election campaign. The 2012 winner Rick Santorum is at 1 percent.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs wrote up the key findings here, with input from Jason Noble. My first thoughts about the numbers are after the jump.

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Five shocking findings from Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey

Public Policy Polling released its latest Iowa caucus numbers yesterday. As other recent surveys of Iowa Democrats have shown, Hillary Clinton still leads by a considerable margin, but her lead has shrunk since the spring, as Iowans have learned more about other contenders. PPP now has Clinton at 52 percent support among “usual Democratic primary voters,” while Bernie Sanders has 25 percent, Martin O’Malley 7 percent, Jim Webb 3 percent, and Lincoln Chafee 1 percent.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump leads among “usual Republican primary voters” with 19 percent, followed by Ben Carson and Scott Walker (12 percent each), Jeb Bush (11 percent), Carly Fiorina (10 percent), Ted Cruz (9 percent), Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio (6 percent each), John Kasich and Rand Paul (3 percent each), Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum (2 percent each), Chris Christie (1 percent), and Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki (less than 1 percent).

Dropping to 3 percent earned Paul the “biggest loser” title from Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen and was the only topline result that shocked me. Things got way more interesting in the cross-tabs. I enclose below the five findings that struck me most.

As a bonus, I added at the end of this post completely unsurprising numbers from PPP’s survey of registered Iowa voters: Governor Terry Branstad is underwater with 42 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval. Last month’s high-profile line-item vetoes are even less popular.

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