Why Has Trump Endured as Carson Fades?

A new Quinnipiac poll Wednesday morning has more bad news for Ben Carson. The doctor is down to third place, at 16 percent. In the last Q poll, at the beginning of November, he was in second, just one point behind Donald Trump. Now he trails Trump by 11. That’s in line with a series of other recent polls that show him losing much of his edge. When I looked at Carson’s polling two weeks ago, it looked like he might be facing a downturn. Now he’s lost between a quarter and a third of his support, depending on how you run the averages. It’s a collapse.

Why Has Trump Endured as Carson Fades?

Trump and Carson have been twinned in media coverage for months, and not just because they’ve been leading the field: two outsider candidates, atypical presidential contenders with no debt to the traditional party structure, little interest in old-fashioned political pieties, and no practical experience in either campaigning or policymaking.

But if you had to bet on whether Carson or Trump would do better, Carson would have been a safer wager. He was a man of unassailable character, a highly lauded neurosurgeon and bestselling author. He had an impressive rags-to-riches personal story, and his comments assailing Obamacare at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast had made him an instant conservative folk hero. Trump, meanwhile, was a thrice-married mogul with a history of questionable business practices, a record of inflammatory comments, a grab bag of unorthodox beliefs for a self-proclaimed conservative, and a long history of party-switching and donations to Democrats.

Why Has Trump Endured as Carson Fades?

None of this means it’s the end of the road for Carson. The campaign is fluid, and many candidates have been up and down—though Carson’s time is getting short to turn things around. (Back in July, I looked at Carson’s declining poll numbers and wondered whether he was finished. Oops!) Carson also still has certain advantages that Trump can’t claim: a massive fundraising operation, and a base among evangelicals—a demographic that, unlike Trump supporters, consistently votes in primary elections. (What sort of get-out-the-vote operation will Trump have?) But with less than two months to go until the Iowa caucus, Donald Trump is clearly well ahead in the outsider primary.

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