“The better Ben Carson does, the worse Ted Cruz will do,” said Jamie Johnson, an Iowa pastor who worked on Rick Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign. “I still have talked to people this very week—they love Ben Carson, and they’re going to caucus for him. And that does not bode well for Ted Cruz.”
Recent polling suggests Carson, who remains extremely popular among GOP voters even if he’s no longer their top pick, is eating more into Cruz’s potential base of support than Trump’s. Cross-tabs provided to National Journal from a mid-January Loras College survey of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers showed 37 percent of Carson backers saying Cruz was their second choice, compared to 27 percent for Marco Rubio and 10 percent for Trump. And nearly half of Carson’s supporters said they were absolutely committed to caucusing for him.
Previous cycles have proven that the final week in Iowa is pivotal, so Carson could bleed more support by Monday. Several of his senior staffers have left the campaign in recent weeks, and the political newcomer has yet to find the ability to clearly articulate his views on national security at a time when the issue is at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Still, he’s continuing to hit the pavement in Iowa. Through Tuesday, Carson had spent 12 days in the state this month, compared to ten for Cruz and Rubio and eight for Trump.