Does this count for purposes of declaring that there’s no hard proof of a Carson lead in Iowa until a third poll detects it? Because this would be the third poll, after Quinnipiac and the Des Moines Register, to find him ahead there in the past few days. In theory an internal poll conducted for a Super PAC that’s competing in the state is untrustworthy because the group that commissioned it obviously has a strong rooting interest. But in that case, if this is little more than propaganda with cooked numbers, why does the data so closely resemble what Quinnipiac and the DMR found? For maximum news buzz, you’d expect there to be some sort of striking outlier — Carson with 35 percent of the vote, say, or Trump crashing into third place in the low teens or, of course, Bobby Jindal surging into double digits. Instead this poll exactly matches what Quinnipiac found for Carson and Trump and is within a point of what the DMR found. And the pollsters who conducted it are speaking on the record in defense of their work.

Suddenly I’m imagining Trump going after Carson at the debate on Wednesday and Ted Cruz, eager to impress Carson’s evangelical voters, riding to his rescue. We’re getting to the point of the race where Cruz has no choice but to start tearing Trump down as both a phony conservative and a phony outsider, no? Now that he’s risen to third in Iowa in several polls, it may be time to make his move.

“At this point, Carson, Rubio, Jindal, Fiorina and Cruz are the best bets to win Iowa,” GOP pollsters Jim McLaughlin and Rob Schmidt wrote in the polling memo prepared for Believe Again, the super PAC supporting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “Trump and Bush, with their high negatives, have ceilings to their vote. It is also important to note that Trump’s support in Iowa tends to be lower in surveys that screen by actual likelihood of voting and past participation in presidential caucuses.”…

Like the horse race numbers, candidate favorable ratings in the Believe Again poll also tracked with many recent surveys — with one caveat: Trump was not the least liked of the top polling candidates. That dishonor went to Bush, the former Florida governor. His favorable rating was a respectable 54 percent, but trailed the New York billionaire real estate developer and reality television star, whose positive score was 59 percent…

Asked for their second choice in the race for the Republican nomination, Carson finished first with 23 percent of likely GOP caucus goers, followed by Rubio (14 percent); Cruz (12 percent); Fiorina (11 percent); Trump (9 percent): undecided (8 percent); Bush (6 percent); Jindal (5 percent) and Huckabee (4 percent.)

Carson’s favorable rating stands at 91 farking percent. As for Jeb, he’s the only candidate whom a majority of Iowa Republicans (53 percent) said they wouldn’t consider voting for. Trump stood at 43 percent, by comparison, with 53 percent saying they would consider voting for him. None of which really matters — it’s been clear for months that Bush isn’t going to win Iowa — but it’s more grist for the “Republicans really don’t like our guy” mill among his donors.

Here’s what the new frontrunner said when asked about his 20-point lead over Trump among Republican women in Iowa in Quinnipiac’s poll:

“First of all let me say, I love women, they’ve been so important to my life,” Carson said on WABC’s Rita Cosby Show when asked about the disparity between him and Trump with women. Carson pointed to his mother’s influence on his life and those who worked with him during his time as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins…

Carson was asked why he thought he was leading Trump with women, answering, “I suspect because, you know, when I talk about issues and I talk about things, I really don’t distinguish and I think everybody knows that I’m gonna be totally fair in everything that I do.”

When pressed specifically if Trump’s remarks were alienating women, Carson responded that the interviewer would have to ask women, but conceded, “Certainly, there have been things that people might take offense at.”

I assume that’s a reference to Trump’s “look at that face” comment about Fiorina or his shot at Megyn Kelly “bleeding” during the debate, but I think Carson’s advantage among women is more complicated than that. You tell me, ladies: Why might Carson seem more appealing than Trump? It’s hard to think of a policy issue on which the two split dramatically that might matter to women especially. The default (i.e. easy/lazy) explanation is that it’s a matter of personal style. Carson is devout, genteel, unassuming, has an irresistibly winning personal biography, and has spent his professional life saving children’s lives in the operating room. Trump is brusque, boastful, not devout, frequently insults his opponents, has been married three times, and is known for firing people and running beauty pageants apart from his real-estate dealings. If you like him, you love his alpha-male bravado. If you don’t, he comes off as a boor. Is the preference for Carson as simple as that? If so, how come Trump’s having no problem (yet?) with women in New Hampshire and other early states?

Incidentally, after months and months of Republican “insiders” predicting that Trump was about to implode at any second, they finally came around this week to the idea that he has a legit shot at the nomination. And of course, as soon as they did, he had his first real string of bad polls in Iowa. Never underestimate an insider’s ability to be wrong in new and different ways! Via Reason, here’s Carson telling Glenn Beck that, among other things, he’ll “intensify” the war on drugs as president. So we’ve got that to look forward to. Although, in fairness, that’s not a bad answer for Iowa.