Frank, you talked about Carson’s recent surge in Iowa yesterday and made some great points.
At this point, it seems that Trump and Carson are functioning as an amorphous blob candidate. Supporters of Trump tend to like Carson, and supporters of Carson tend to like Trump. Furthermore, these voters tend to dislike perceived establishment candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, etc.
Carson and Trump may be trying to avoid direct confrontation with each other on the campaign trail, but they are actually in fierce competition. If one of them loses part of his support, the other stands to gain it and solidify his front-runner status. And by the numbers, Carson seems to have a higher ceiling, especially with the rest of the GOP base. As Maggie reported earlier this week, according to one poll, 84 percent of GOP primary voters view Carson favorably, while only 10 percent view him unfavorably. That’s a +74 on the Cannon Favorability Metric, which is unheard of. Meanwhile, only 53 percent of GOP voters view Trump favorably, with 43 percent viewing him unfavorably, giving him a +10 Cannon Favorability Metric.
What does all this mean? BASELESS CONJECTURE ALERT!
Carson is in a great place right now and is demonstrating that he’s capable of winning over Trump voters. As a duo, they are currently taking 48 percent of the vote in Iowa. If Donald Trump fades at any point, the logical conclusion seems to be that Carson may win his supporters, dominate Iowa, and take a huge national lead.
The establishment GOP is already nervous about Trump and Carson separately. Can you imagine what would happen if Trump fizzled and Carson solidified the pro-outsider electorate and started polling nationally near 50 percent? Establishment Republicans would absolutely freak out.
Pressure would quickly mount on non-viable GOP candidates to drop out and allow the field to narrow to promote one establishment candidate to take on Carson, and based on his numbers so far, it sure doesn’t seem like Jeb Bush fits the mold of “viable.”
It’s a lot more likely to be Marco Rubio. Like Carson, Rubio repeatedly demonstrates a high Cannon Favorability Metric, and he is having his own little boomlet, currently polling third nationally and third in Iowa.
If all of this took place, the field would eventually slim down to just two viable candidates: Ben Carson and Marco Rubio. And then the real slugfest would begin. Either way, it seems like a win for conservatives who have been frustrated with a weak party for a long time.
Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for the American Principles Project.