Frontrunner: Scott Walker 25, Ben Carson 18, Jeb Bush 17 in new poll of Republicans

Impressive, but how long realistically can Walker resist the Ben Carson juggernaut?

Actually — no fooling — I think Carson’s numbers are bigger news here than Walker’s, even though he’s the first guy in the developing field to establish something of a frontrunner status.

Walker is climbing fast in the polling because of his appeal to the most conservative elements of the Republican electorate. Among ‘very conservative’ voters he leads with 37% to 19% for Carson, 12% for Bush, and 11% for Huckabee. Bush has a similarly large lead over Walker with moderates at 34/12…the problem for Bush though is that there are two times more GOP primary voters who identify as ‘very conservative’ than there are ones who identify as moderates.

Bush is really struggling with conservative voters. Among ‘very conservative’ voters on this poll, just 37% rate Bush favorably to 43% with an unfavorable opinion. By comparison Carson is at 73/2, Walker at 68/3, and Cruz at 68/8 with those folks…

The struggles Bush is having with some Republican primary voters don’t seem to have anything to do with his brother’s legacy. George W. Bush has a 74/21 favorability rating with them, and the closest any of this year’s candidates get to that is a 56% favorability for Mike Huckabee. And the former President has plenty of credibility with conservatives- among those rating themselves as ‘very conservative’ his favorability is 81/14 compared to his brother’s 37/43. It’s Jeb’s record on certain issues rather than his last name that is causing his issues.

Yup. Being George W. Bush’s brother is a liability in the general election. In the primary, it’s probably either a small asset or neutral. Jeb’s problem in getting past Walker is that he’s seen as a true amnesty warrior, a dissident on the hot button of Common Core, and a guy who seems to enjoy boasting to his media friends that he won’t pander to the conservative rabble in the name of winning an election. Even so, he’s still much more popular than Chris Christie, who’s dunzo with a 28/45 favorable rating among Republicans overall and a 33/38 rating among moderates, his supposed base. (Among conservatives he’s at 20/61.) If he ends up running anyway, it’ll be because he has even more blind faith in his ability to win over voters on the stump than Ted Cruz has.

Speaking of which, how does Ben Carson continue to poll so well when there are more seasoned social conservatives like Cruz in the mix? Carson has a high media profile thanks to his Fox segments and he’s had grassroots buzz over the past two years, but the same’s true of Cruz. He’s a senator (from Texas!), he’s on Fox regularly, he proved his conservative bona fides in taking withering fire while trying to block ObamaCare’s implementation, even at the price of a government shutdown, and he’s probably the most polished speaker in the field — and yet Carson has more than three times his support here. What happened? The Carson balloon will eventually deflate but the more plausible social conservatives in the field simply cannot have this guy sticking around with some respectable level of support (say, 10 percent or so) in Iowa. It may well be the margin of victory, denying Cruz or Huckabee or even Rubio or Walker the votes they need to eke out a win. Why aren’t the numbers for Cruz and Carson reversed? I’m asking earnestly. I can’t figure it out.

While we’re on the subject of niche social-con candidates, though, here’s a pair of fun data points from the PPP poll:


Huckabee’s been giving interviews lately about his prospective candidacy claiming he knows that this time he can’t afford to be pigeonholed as the “Christian” candidate. Good luck with that, big guy.

Incidentally, fully 57 percent of Republicans polled think Christianity should be the national religion of the United States, Establishment Clause or not. Second look at conservative atheists going third-party?

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