Trump and Carson Lead Early Iowa Polling

Two candidates with no experience in elected office are leading the Republican field.

Two candidates with no experience in elected office are leading the Republican field.

Bloomberg Politics (“Ben Carson Edging Close to Front-Runner Trump in Latest Iowa Poll“):

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has emerged as a leading Republican presidential candidate in Iowa and is closing in on frontrunner Donald Trump in the state that hosts the first 2016 nomination balloting contest.

The latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows billionaire Trump with the support of 23 percent of likely Republican caucus participants, followed by Carson at 18 percent. When first and second choices are combined, Carson is tied with Trump.

Trump finds himself in a vastly better position than when the previous Iowa Poll was taken. He has become a credible presidential candidate to many likely Republican caucus-goers. The real estate mogul is rated favorably by 61 percent and unfavorably by 35 percent, an almost complete reversal since the Iowa Poll in May. He finds his highest ratings among those planning to attend the caucuses for the first time (69 percent) and limited-government Tea Party activists (73 percent). Just 29 percent say they could never vote for him, a number cut in half since May.

That puts both of them way ahead of any of the other candidates:

iowa-polling-bloomberg-20150829

The usual caveats apply: It’s absurdly early in the process. It’s next to impossible to poll a caucus state. Iowa is incredibly unrepresentative of the rest of the country and its caucuses rarely go to the eventual nominee.

Still, it’s notable that the two candidates leading the race are non-politicians. The field features lots of people traditionally qualified for the presidency. Nine current or former governors. Five current or former US Senators. But none of them are the first choice of more than 8 percent or the combined first or second choice of more than 18 percent of likely caucus participants. Indeed, the other traditionally unqualified candidate, failed HP executive Carly Fiorina, is beating most of them.

“Trump and Carson, one bombastic and the other sometimes soft-spoken, could hardly be more different in their outward presentations,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “Yet they’re both finding traction because they don’t seem like politicians and there’s a strong demand for that right now.”

While perhaps cherry picked, the anecdotal reporting supports this interpretation as well:

“I’m sick and tired of the political class,” said Lisa Pilch, 54, a middle school physical education teacher leaning toward Carson who lives in Springville, Iowa. “I just like his tone and think he’s someone who could pull us together, rather than the polarization we have right now. He has a lot of wisdom, even if he doesn’t have political savviness.”

[…]

“He’s got a no-nonsense approach,” said Patrick Messmore, 32, a construction equipment sales manager who lives near Grundy Center and plans to back Trump. “His history as a businessman is potentially a good change for our country, so that we don’t just have another life-time politician taking over as president.”

I still can’t fathom the party ultimately nominating either Trump or Carson. Their act will likely wear thin pretty soon. Further, the more traditional candidates are having trouble differentiating themselves right now with Trump getting so much attention. Still, aside from the Ross Perot boomlet in 1992, I can’t recall anything like this.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Seriously James, I do not understand why any experienced candidate would go to Iowa at all? Why subject yourself to a mercurial and somewhat bogus caucus system.

    Sit Iowa out – so what if you’re accused of ‘ducking a fight’? It’s Iowa, it’s of little consequence to anyone except wannabes like Carson and Trump, the media, and Iowans themselves, who think so little of the primary system that they don’t even bother to have an actual legitimate election.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    {{{oops}}}

  3. Crusty Dem says:

    Still, it’s notable that the two candidates leading the race are non-politicians

    Why yes, it’s almost like decades of continual demonization of all government has led to a negative view of all experienced politicians among GOP faithful. So if you’re qualified to run for president, you’re disqualified for being an “insider” or part of the political class.

    There should be space for Ted Cruz as “the politician that politicians hate”, but he and Scott Walker (and Jeb, and Rubio, and Paul) are charisma black holes…

  4. Kylopod says:

    Still, aside from the Ross Perot boomlet in 1992, I can’t recall anything like this.

    While Trump is in a class of his own, there have been many candidates with no elected experience who have done well in some of the primaries or caucuses. Pat Robertson came in second place in Iowa in 1988, ahead of the eventual nominee George H.W. Bush. Pat Buchanan won New Hampshire and Louisiana in 1996, while Steve Forbes took Delaware and Arizona. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina and four other states in 1988.

    None of these people ever stood a serious threat of winning their party’s nomination, but at the time it was easy to pretend that they did.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We have entered the Looking Glass.

    The Republican Party sat on a wall,
    The Republican Party had a great fall;
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put the GOP together again.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Or at least not in time for the 2016 elections. 🙂

  7. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    I’m anxiously awaiting Trump to start attacking Carson.

  8. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    I’m anxiously awaiting Trump to start attacking Carson.

  9. edmondo says:

    Further, the more traditional candidates are having trouble differentiating themselves right now

    Maybe that’s because they are all saying the same crazy shit that no one believes for one second they will enact?

    The old meme that the “Democrats fall in love and the Republicans fall in line” seems pretty much reversed this year. Perhaps that’s why the Democrats want to elect their most Republican candidate they can find.

  10. Paul Hooson says:

    Voters in Iowa must be confused, the question on this ballot isn’t who is the most dangerous person to have their finger on the nuclear button…

  11. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @edmondo:

    Maybe that’s because they are all saying the same crazy shit that no one believes for one second they will enact?

    Case in point: Christie’s suggestion that immigrants be (somehow) imprinted with a UPC and a vast network of immigration UPC scanners be placed across the country. (maybe like at the entry of all Walmarts or each and every library)…

    Here:

    Or maybe they would try to enact this crazy s**t – that’s really scary!

  12. James Pearce says:

    This “not a politician” stuff probably has a lot to do with Republican performance over the last 15 years or so. During Obama’s administration they’ve been totally ineffectual in Congress, felt betrayed by the Supreme Court, and their mad scientist governors have blown up their laboratories/states. Before that, they got bogged down in war and hurricanes, an economy that collapsed. Where are the victories?

    So it’s no real surprise that many people think the politicians failed.

    What they should consider, though, is the prospect of faring any better with better politicians, or in Trump/Carson’s case, non-politicians. I’m not so sure to be honest.

    It’s not the politicians that are the problem. It’s the ideas. And those aren’t getting any better.

  13. LWA (LIberal WIth Attitude) says:

    People keep pretending as though this is some sort of false consciousness, that subconsciously the GOP base knows they really want Bush but are temporarily blinded and saying they want Trump and Carson.

    Even a 5 minute browse through the comments section of any rightwing site should dispel that myth.

    No, they really do want to round up Mexicans and stuff them into cattle cars; the more polite ones want to chip them like stray dogs, and the even more high toned ones want to make their lives so miserable and hellish they self deport.

    They really, really do want to throw women in prison for getting abortions, and make contraception difficult and expensive.

    They really, really, REALLY want to kick ass on some country somewhere, it doesn’t matter much who or where or why.

    There’s that old saying, that Stalin told lies and everybody believed him, while Hitler told the truth, and nobody believed him.

    These people mean what they say, and say what they mean.

  14. JKB says:

    And the Democrats have very old candidates with decades of experience in political cronyism. The frontrunner under investigation for misuse of classified information, possibly rising to violations of the Espionage Act.

    It’s a fine mess all around.

    Or course, we are in the message portion of the presidential race where the people are sending messages by their support. Later, in February, the general populace will start taking candidate selection seriously.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Republicans are giving up on politicians because what Republicans want is not possible. It’s the voters wishing for magical fascist unicorns, old, rustic white folk afraid they’ll have to marry gay Latinos. Idiots and bigots, the bosses of the GOP.

  16. LWA (LIberal WIth Attitude) says:

    @michael reynolds:
    In 2008, when I thought I could reason with conservatives, I had a diary at RedState.

    I wrote a post on the budget, laying out the 5 main categories of spending (Debt Service, Defense/ Homeland Security, Social Security, Medicare, and Everything Else) and the tax receipts, and explained how it was impossible to reconcile a balanced budget without massive cuts to Defense or Social Security.

    The response was almost verbatim “I don’t disagree with your numbers, but I disagree with your conclusions”.

    That pretty much sums up every GOP fiscal plan since Eisenhower.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod:

    While Trump is in a class of his own, there have been many candidates with no elected experience who have done well in some of the primaries or caucuses. Pat Robertson came in second place in Iowa in 1988, ahead of the eventual nominee George H.W. Bush. Pat Buchanan won New Hampshire and Louisiana in 1996, while Steve Forbes took Delaware and Arizona. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina and four other states in 1988.

    Fair enough, but I put all of them in a different category than Trump or Perot. While none of them had ever been elected to anything, Robertson, Buchanan, and Jackson were heavily involved in politics and national spokemen for political causes for decades before running. Forbes was never a serious contender but was at least actively involved in politics as a media type and Reagan appointee. Neither Trump or Carson had evinced any interest in politics or public policy until recently. (In fairness, I keep forgetting that Trump flirted with a run for the Reform Party presidential nomination years ago. But I always considered that a publicity stunt.)

  18. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    I keep forgetting that Trump flirted with a run for the Reform Party presidential nomination years ago.

    Trump’s name had actually been floated as a potential presidential contender since the 1980s. The problem is that there’s a tendency to dismiss anything Trump does as a publicity stunt. Still, several of the candidates I mentioned held views that were just as deranged as Trump’s. Robertson endorsed everything from faith healing to the Illuminati conspiracy theory (though he presented a relatively more mainstream face during his presidential run). Buchanan was a borderline white nationalist.

    In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the views of Buchanan and Trump (including their attacks on free trade). Buchanan’s decades within the Washington political and media establishment insulated him, I believe, from facing consequences for the things he said that would have ended the career of almost anyone else. I remember watching a clip of him and Rachel Maddow debating Sonia Sotomayor’s qualifications for the Supreme Court, and I could’ve sworn they were schmoozing with each other. Certainly, Maddow didn’t look like she was about to punch him out for being a racist, sexist, homophobic pig. So while his views may have sounded an awful lot like Trump’s do now, his demeanor and his relationship with the media couldn’t have been more different.

    In short, what sets Trump apart from these other candidates isn’t his lack of political experience or the extremism of his views, but the profound unseriousness of his campaign and the feeling that it’s all a publicity stunt.

  19. Grumpy Realist says:

    @michael reynolds: as said, they want to return to a magic 1950s that never existed but who cares?

    Ah yes, back to the golden age of childhood. I was one of those who was unmercifully bullied through all my childhood, so I don’t have any rosy-colored nostalgia about it.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Certainly, Maddow didn’t look like she was about to punch him (Buchanan) out for being a racist, sexist, homophobic pig.

    I think the credit for that goes more to Maddow’s interviewing style than to Buchanan’s demeanor. Unlike say Tweety, Chris Matthews, who shouts over his guests, if Maddow’s interviewee starts digging a hole, she’ll smile and keep handing him shovels.