An intriguing poll, not just because of New Hampshire’s importance but because the last one conducted by this media outlet, WBUR, came just two weeks ago. Any movement in such a short period is likely the result of one of two things, the GOP debate on November 10th or the attack in Paris last Friday.
Make of this, then, what you will.
Carson was in a near tie with Trump in September, but he’s 10 points behind now, with 13 percent support.
MassINC Pollster Steve Koczela says voters gave Carson an early honeymoon, but the attraction is fading.
“The counter example to that is Marco Rubio,” Koczela noted, “where the better voters get to know him the more they like him.”…
Unlike Trump, Rubio draws appreciable support from both the 46 percent of respondents who prefer an outsider, and the 36 percent who prefer an experienced candidate.
Rubio’s now tied for second with Carson at 13 percent. At the start of this month, Trump led with 18 percent with Carson just two points behind and Rubio in third with 11 percent. What happened to move Trump and (to a lesser degree) Rubio up and Carson down? The debate helped Rubio: 36 percent said he did the best job there with Cruz a distant second at 16 percent. There was almost no difference between Trump and Carson on that question. What’s pushing Trump up lately probably has more to do with Paris and his strongman image. When you’re especially angry at jihadis and looking for revenge, go figure that the guy who’s telling audiences he’ll “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” (profanity included for extra I’m-not-a-politician cred) gets a boost. Pair that with Carson’s own meandering answer at the debate on Syria and it’s easy to see why people are tilting towards Trump. Even apart from their rhetoric, the contrast in their temperaments favors Trump at a moment of jitters about jihad. When you’re going after the caliphate, you want a commander-in-chief who’s “high energy.”
But maybe there’s something else going on here too. Note the trend:
Those numbers are still plenty good but Carson’s favorables are now slightly worse than Rubio’s at 57/20. It’s unusual for Ben Carson to trail anyone in any poll this fall in terms of sheer likability, and it’s very unusual to see his likability going in the wrong direction. You wouldn’t expect a weak answer on foreign policy to be affecting his favorable rating either, just his standing in the overall polls. The only obvious explanation I can come up with for why he’s slipping is that the stories about his youthful temper and “scholarship” to West Point, which Trump alone among the candidates has been promoting, really have started to dent Carson’s image a bit — not fatally but enough to make a difference. Pay attention to new polls out of Iowa this week to see if they detect the same trend. If they do, it’ll suggest that Trump’s attacks worked. And his reward for that, if Carson’s defecting voters go where we think they’re going to go, will be a much more formidable opponent in Ted Cruz rising in the polls.
One more point. Look at how many ways the “moderate” vote is split in New Hampshire right now:
Rubio’s got 13 percent, Jeb’s got seven, Kasich has seven, and Christie has six. That’s 33 percent combined. If three of those guys dropped out, most of those votes would probably split between the survivor and Trump, which could quickly make this a two-man race. On the other hand, even if the survivor consolidated most of the support for those candidates, Trump could probably still maintain his lead by picking up just a few percent from them. And it’s likely Trump (and Cruz) will benefit more than Rubio as other “outsiders” like Carson and Fiorina fade and their votes go elsewhere. That is to say, Trump can pull from the pool of “moderate” voters and from the pool of populist voters who might prefer a conservative but prefer a fighting populist above all. That’s a tough coalition to beat.
Here’s Trump telling Hannity that we’ll have no choice but to shut down some mosques where “bad things” are happening, a policy that would probably last about five minutes in court but will last much longer in the memories of primary voters.