Is Ben Carson the GOP’s Best General Election Hope?

In addition to the Quinnipiac poll Maggie reported on yesterday, Fox News also released a national poll showing roughly the same current breakdown of the GOP race.  As Maggie noted, four candidates have clearly moved head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field: Donald Trump leads with 26 percent, followed by Ben Carson (23 percent), Marco Rubio (11 percent), and Ted Cruz (11 percent).  All the rest of the candidates registered at 4 percent or lower.

Looking at the rest of the polling data, however, some really interesting numbers emerged.

Firstly, Fox News polled all respondents (Republicans, Democrats, and independents) on whether they felt each candidate was “honest and trustworthy.”  These answers give us a possible idea of which candidates would do the best in a hypothetical general election matchup, if we assume trustworthiness to be a good indicator that a given voter would consider pulling the lever for a candidate.

Once we calculate each candidate’s “trustworthiness rating” (a derivative of the Frank Cannon Metric), one stands far above the others:

  • Ben Carson: +34, 14% unsure
  • Bernie Sanders: +12, 22% unsure
  • John Kasich: +11, 41% unsure
  • Mike Huckabee: +10, 19% unsure
  • Marco Rubio: +5, 23% unsure
  • Rand Paul: +4, 22% unsure
  • Carly Fiorina: +4, 30% unsure
  • Ted Cruz: -2, 22% unsure
  • Jeb Bush: -4, 10% unsure
  • Chris Christie: -16, 18% unsure
  • Donald Trump: -18, 6% unsure
  • Hillary Clinton: -26, 4% unsure

Looking beyond the fascinating fact that the two candidates perceived to be least trustworthy happen to be the leading candidates in their respective parties’ polling, Ben Carson seems to have a significant advantage on the rest of the field when it comes to appearing honest.  The massive gap between him and Trump in this regard may help explain why he fares so much better than Trump when polled head-to-head versus Clinton.  Although a plurality of Republican respondents on the poll (37 percent) believed Trump has the best chance to beat defeat Clinton in 2016, the rest of the polling points clearly to Carson.

However, to make it to the general election, Carson would still need to defeat Trump in the GOP primary, a race that is looking more interesting by the day.  While Trump and Carson are separated by a mere 3 points in this poll, the numbers show that they are deriving their support from very different parts of the conservative electorate (as Clint also argued earlier this week).

While Trump leads Carson among men, those making less than $50,000 a year, and those without a college degree, Carson leads Trump among women, those making more than $50,000 a year, those with a college degree, and white Evangelicals.  With such different voter bases, this means that the key for both candidates will be turning out their respective voters.  It also suggests that Carson may do better in states with high proportions of educated and/or religious voters (such as Caucus states and in the South) while Trump may have more success in states with a high percentage of working class voters (such as the Rust Belt).

Of course, as I have argued previously, Carson may have to contend with a similar candidate such as Cruz stealing voters from his base, and a significant portion of the electorate could also eventually coalesce around a well-funded establishment candidate, such as Rubio, so it is still way too early to be talking about an exclusively Trump vs. Carson primary battle.

However, given that there seem to be relatively few candidates (besides perhaps Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum) contending for Trump voters (who may be too suspicious of conventional candidates to vote for a Huckabee or Santorum), it seems safe to say that Trump, assuming he remains in the race, will be a significant factor in the primary and that it may take the withdrawal of several other serious candidates for one of Trump’s rivals to cobble together enough support to defeat him.

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.