Ever since the news broke about the new Monmouth poll showing Ben Carson tying things up with Donald Trump in Iowa, a sort of fire drill has gone on in the liberal media. After spending months trying to explain why in the world anyone could possibly support Donald Trump and listing the endless reasons why you would be wrong to do so, these same sage observers now feel compelled to come up with an explanation as to why anyone would be in Carson’s camp. As usual, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart was out ahead of the pack in coming up with some form of irrational rationale. And, of course, to make sure that no reader mistakes his analysis for any sort of approval for the neurosurgeon, he offers his stamp of approval to a description of Carson and Trump as simply being two sides of the same coin. (WaPo)
For a party in thrall to a natural showman with little known allegiance to Republican ideology, what explains the rise of an otherwise boring doctor who made a name for himself telling off President Obama at the prayer breakfast in 2013?
“Trump satisfies the id. Carson satisfies the superego,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican ad maker and strategist told me in an e-mail. “Trump feeds the nationalist, isolationist, sometimes revanchist sentiment of a lost working and lower middle class overcome by change and economic dislocation. He’s the avatar of their anger, even if he asks them to look past all their conservative values to support him.”
As for Carson, Wilson said, “Carson is the aspirational story that fills people’s hearts and makes them look at a miracle that could only happen here. Evidently brilliant mindfully, but firmly conservative, in for the country not just for his ego.” Wilson, who is not working with any of the presidential candidates and says he’s “neutral,” later wrote, “’l’ll take door number 2!”
This “explanation” is set in the context of having already been prefaced by paragraphs where Carson is variously described as boring, out of it, a mumbler and low energy. Heaven forbid that the mouth breathing conservative primary voters of Iowa simply find Carson to be likable, pious and smart. But before we go rushing to the battlements to gin up an anti-Carson media factory, we should also stop and ask ourselves how much the voters like him.
There’s no question that Carson is doing well and has some lasting appeal, but we’re talking about a single poll out of a single state, and a small one at that. The fact that it’s Iowa really shouldn’t have come as that much of a shock since Ben Carson has been doing really well there for some time now. The Des Moines Register already had him trailing Trump within the margins a week ago and CNN had him within 8 there almost a month back.
But in the national average, though Carson is again doing an admirable job for someone who gets almost no earned media compared to The Donald, he’s still in second place and losing to Trump at a 25 to 11 clip. In New Hampshire Trump is riding up near 30 and Carson is languishing down around 6%. (And that’s no outlier… those number have been stagnant for at least a month.) In South Carolina, Monmouth has the most recent set of numbers also and they’ve got Carson doing somewhat better at 15, but Trump still doubles him at 30.
The fact is that Carson seems to have put nearly all of his eggs in the Iowa basket. (Not a frivolous strategy and one which has served others well.) He’s been on the ground there the majority of the time since May and has built up a hand to hand fundraising lead. Carson has shown a natural talent for retail politicking which is pretty much a requirement in corn country. In short, he’s done precisely the kind of work that one needs to do in order to win Iowa and he’s been going at it overtime for months on end. And that’s still only been good enough to get him into a tie with Trump.
I think Carson is a fine man… possibly a great man, and he brings a lot to this primary race. Depending on how things shake out over the next few months he might even win the whole darned thing. At the same time, however, I think the release of one poll in a single state might be a tad bit soon to start cranking out columns and dedicating cable news shows to “explaining” why Carson is such a shocking winner.