The Republican nomination fight continues to be dominated by political newcomers Donald Trump and Ben Carson. In Iowa, Carson has moved up to tie Trump.

In South Carolina and New Hampshire, there is Donald Trump with a large lead, and then there is everyone else…

It’s not simply that Trump – or Trump and Carson – are heading a fractured field. It’s that so many of the candidates in the race aren’t viewed as satisfactory choices so far.

“This is a great poll, but’s it’s only one poll,” Carson added. “So I’m not gonna get too excited until I see that this really a trend in lots of different places.”…

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 love Iowa and I honestly think those polls are wrong,” said Trump on Friday at a rally at his Trump National Doral resort and golf club, a gleaming facility the candidate often touts in his stump speeches and may provide a glimpse of what he wants to do for America.

After an extended wind-up in which he cited an extensive list of nationwide polls and polls from other states that continue to show him winning by wide margins, he said, “Let me give you the bad news.” Then he acknowledged the results of two Iowa polls this week that showed him falling behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

“The biggest headline yesterday, he said: ‘Trump Falls to 2nd Place in Iowa Behind Ben Carson. We Informed Carson But He Was Sleeping.'”

“Ben Carson is leading Iowa supposedly. Ben Carson is super low energy. We need tremendous energy,” Trump continued, recycling an attack he’s used repeatedly on Jeb Bush.

“I don’t get into the mud pit,” Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, said in a partial transcript of an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” made available by the network ahead of Sunday’s broadcast. “I do have a tendency to be relaxed. I wasn’t always like that. There was a time when I was, you know, very volatile.”

Carson, 64, said that as a teenager he would go after people “with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers.” At age 14, growing up poor in Detroit, he tried to stab a classmate with a camping knife . “Fortunately, you know, my life has been changed. And I’m a very different person now,” said Carson…

Carson agreed with a suggestion that people mistake his soft-spoken manner for a lack of energy. “I have plenty of energy,” he said. “I will tell you, in terms of energy, I’m not sure that there’s anybody else running who’s spent 18 or 20 hours intently operating on somebody.”

While Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he is a “counter-puncher” and only attacks other candidates once they’ve attacked him, his assault on the retired neurosurgeon wasn’t a response to anything Carson has said about Trump. In fact, Carson has been one of the only candidates to pull his punches against Trump, repeatedly refusing to criticize the billionaire who maintains his lead in the national polls.

“I like Ben, but he cannot do with trade like I do,” Trump said. “He can’t do with a lot of things like I do, so we’ll just have to see what happens.”…

“He’s very, very weak on immigration and I’m very strong on immigration,” Trump said. “Ben Carson is very, very weak on immigration. He believes in amnesty strongly. He believes in citizenship. He’s going to give citizenship to people who are here illegally — you can’t do that.”

Carson plans to take a deliberately gentle approach to his flamboyant foe, said Armstrong Williams, Carson’s confidant and business manager.

“Think about it: Parents, children, employees — they don’t want a boss or a president who is going to fly off the handle and throw insults at people,” Williams said. “People expect you to have a certain level of class and dignity. Wealth does not give you class; it does not give you temperament or discipline.”…

“Carson is kind of an unassailable candidate,” said Steve Deace, a conservative radio host who is supporting Cruz, the Texas senator. “Even if people don’t think Carson is ready to lead, they still see him as a symbol of what we once were and should be again — the kind of country that produces Ben Carsons.”…

Because of Carson’s popularity, top Republicans say, taking him down will require precision and care. “I don’t think that you need to attack him; you just need to examine him,” Gross said. “While he has an awesome bedside manner for a sick patient, you really wouldn’t ask a politician to do brain surgery. Would you ask a brain surgeon to fix the country?”

Trump also took an indirect shot at Carson for his religion.

“I’m Presbyterian. That’s down the middle of road,” he said. “I mean, Seventh-day Adventist I don’t know about.”

Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist, a Protestant denomination that believes in a literal reading of the Bible.

“I know nothing about it really – I’m a Presbyterian and I had mentioned that, and I did say I don’t know about it, and in fact those are my exact word, so I just really don’t know about the Seventh-Day Adventists, and that’s what I said,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.

Asked if it was a calculated attack to bolster his numbers with Evangelicals, who Carson leads with in Iowa according to a poll released last week, Trump said, “Not at all and I think nationwide I am beating Ben with the Evangelicals but no not at all. I just don’t know about that particular religion.”

“I’d never say bad about any religion,” he added. “I said exactly ‘I don’t know about it.’ That’s not an insult.”

Trump suggested he wouldn’t apologize to Carson over the comments.

“My energy levels are perfectly fine,” Carson said in Iowa. “As I’ve said many times, there have been many times where I’ve operated 12, 15, 20 hours, and that requires a lot of energy. Doesn’t require a lot of jumping up and down and screaming, but it does require a lot of concentration.”…

But Carson has said he will not parry with Trump.

“If he does attack me, I’ll continue to talk about issues. I just really don’t buy into the attack-your-fellow-Republicans thing. I’m just not going to do that,” Carson said Friday on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect.”…

“My personal interactions with him have shown him to be a gentleman,” Carson said. “I think there’s another element sometimes when he’s on camera.”

On ABC’s This Week this morning, George Stephanopoulos brought up a recent focus group in which people called Trump divisive, brash, rude, etc.

Trump dismissed it and said, “I’m being divisive right now because I want to win.”