Every major, independent poll of Republican voters has shown the same result since July: Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field nationally. The durability and consistency of Trump’s standing surprised many, and caused sleepless nights for many Republican insiders.
The good news for the GOP establishment is that, for the first time in four months, Trump’s advantage has slipped. The bad news is, the candidate who’s now out in front is an unhinged retired neurosurgeon who talks about Nazis a little too often.
The new poll results from a national New York Times/CBS News survey are going to raise eyebrows.
1. Ben Carson: 26% (up three points from September)
2. Donald Trump: 22% (down five points)
3. Marco Rubio: 8% (up two points)
4. Jeb Bush: 7% (up one point)
4. Carly Fiorina: 7% (up three points)
Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee are tied for sixth place with 4% each. The remaining candidates are at 3% or below.
It’s worth emphasizing that this is only one poll, which may prove to be an outlier. Indeed, all other recent national polling suggests Trump’s frontrunner status remains fairly secure.
With this in mind, if these new results are a just a blip on the radar, it will soon be forgotten. But if it’s correct and a sign of things to come, the New York Times/CBS News poll may mark a turning point in the race.
What’s more, while national polling matters, the race for presidential nominations are a state-by-state process, which makes the latest trends out of Iowa that much more striking.
In the first nominating contest, Trump led all Iowa polling for much of the summer and early fall, but he’s since relinquished this lead to Carson. Just over the last week, the right-wing physician with a record of bizarre rhetoric took the lead in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, a Quinnipiac poll, and just yesterday, a Monmouth poll that showed Carson up by 14 points in the Hawkeye State over Trump, 32% to 18%.
One Iowa poll showing Carson passing Trump is easy to overlook; three major Iowa polls showing roughly identical results can’t be dismissed.
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum described Carson yesterday as “a right-wing conspiracy-theory-loving loon and he talks as if someone just woke him up at 3 am. Even for Iowa, he’s a very strange GOP frontrunner.”
Perhaps, but here we are.
It’ll be worth watching Trump in the coming days to see how he reacts to an electoral dynamic that’s entirely new to him: being a second-place candidate.