With the latest CNN poll showing Trump continuing his front-runner status, and Carson surging into place as the only candidate GOP voter now prefer, the two men are recognizing they are each others’ biggest competitor, politically speaking.
At the Commonwealth Club, Carson took aim at Trump’s “deport ’em all” immigration plan:
“It sounds really cool, you know, ‘Let’s just round them all up and send them back,'” Carson said. “People who say that have no idea what that would entail in terms of our legal system, the costs – forget about it. Plus, where you gonna send them? It’s just a double whammy.”
Carson also called for a 10 percent flat tax, saying, “I think God’s a pretty fair person, and he advocated a tithing system. There must be something inherently fair about proportionality.”
At a rally in Anaheim, a reporter fanned the flame by asking Carson what the biggest difference is between him and Donald Trump. Carson chose his deep faith commitment: “Probably the biggest thing — I’ve realized where my success has come from and I don’t in anyway deny my faith in God,” drawing an implicit contrast with Trump, who said he never needed to ask God’s forgiveness. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life and that’s a very big part of who I am. I don’t get that impression with him. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t get that.”
Trump did not respond well to these gentle critiques, slamming Carson’s abortion views on CNN as “horrendous” (an odd move for the very recently pro-choice Trump) and allowing that the brilliant John Hopkins neurosurgeon might be an “okay” doctor:
Trump was asked, “Ben Carson, he’s also making a lot of traction. He’s feeling good about himself, enough that he’s coming at you. He is a man of faith, everybody knows that, it’s a cornerstone of his existence, and certainly his motivation to run.” Trump then cut in, “I don’t know that. I mean, I hadn’t heard that. You know, I’ve known Ben Carson — of him, for a long time, I never heard faith was a big thing, until just recently when he started running. So, I don’t know about Ben Carson’s faith, and of all of a sudden he becomes this great religious figure. I don’t think he’s a great religious figure. And I saw him yesterday quoting something, he was quoting on humility, and it looked like he had just memorized it about two minutes before he made the quote. So, you know, don’t tell me about Ben Carson.”
Trump continued, “He’s starting to hit me, so I hit back. I only hit back when I get hit. I’m a great counter-puncher. But, Ben Carson, you’re talking about his faith, excuse me, Chris, go back and look at his past. Go back and look at his views on abortion, and see where he stands. You talk about abortion, I mean, go back and look at his views on abortion, where — now all of a sudden he gets on very low-key, I mean, frankly he looks like — he makes Bush look like the Energizer Bunny. He’s very low-key. He’s got a lot of donors, a lot of people pushing him. But, Ben Carson, you look at his faith, and I think you’re not going to find so much. And you look at his views on abortion, which were horrendous. And that’s, I think, why I’m leading with all the Evangelicals. I’m — as you know in your poll, number one, I’m leading Ben Carson by a lot. … I’m almost double his numbers.”
Trump added, “he’s questioning my faith. I happen to be a great believer in God, and great believer in the Bible. Who is he — hey Chris, who is he to question my faith, when I am — you know, I mean, he doesn’t even know me. I’ve met him a few times, but I don’t know Ben Carson. He was a doctor, perhaps, you know, an okay doctor, by the way, you can check that out, too. We’re not talking about a great — he was an okay doctor. He was just fine.” And “now, because he’s a doctor, and he hired one nurse, he’s going to end up being the president of the United States? But, for him to criticize me on my faith is absolutely — and for him to read from the Bible, in his memory, it looked like he memorized it about two minutes before he went on stage. But, Ben Carson is not going to be your next president, that I can tell you.”
Trump was then asked if he thinks he’s “more a man of faith” than Carson. Trump responded, “I can’t quote him. I can only say I am a man of faith. I can’t — I don’t know enough about Ben Carson. But, if you look at his past, which I’ve done, he wasn’t a big man of faith. All of a sudden he’s become this man of faith. And he was heavy into the world of abortion, and he was a doctor, and take a look at the hospitals where he worked. He was a doctor, check out the past, and see. All of a sudden he’s, oh, he’s totally…anti-abortion. Well, if you look back, you will find he’s a very much different Ben Carson. Now, one other thing, he shouldn’t be questioning my faith, because, number one, I’m leading with the Evangelicals. I’m Protestant. I’, Presbyterian. [sic] I have great relationships with the people of Iowa, with New Hampshire, with South Carolina, and he shouldn’t be questioning my faith. You know what? Because he knows nothing about me. I’ve met him a couple times.”
The Battle for Iowa continues. This is one of Trump’s least effective comebacks, however. On the battle for who has a deeper history with Christianity, I don’t think Trump is going to beat the poor boy from Baltimore.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.