Two national polls released Sunday show Donald Trump is surging ahead of Ben Carson and the rest of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary. Trump had previously fallen behind Ben Carson. After the attacks in Paris, Trump has ratcheted up his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and it appears to have struck a chord with Republican voters.
In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump has a commanding lead over Carson, beating him 32 percent to 22 percent. Trump has nearly three times more support than the third- place candidate, Marco Rubio. He holds a 24 percent advantage over Ted Cruz. Rubio was the choice of only 11 percent of Republicans; Cruz 18 percent; and one time front-runner Jeb Bush has only 6 percent.
In the FOX News poll, also released Sunday, Trump leads Carson 28 percent to 18 percent. Rubio and Cruz each received 14 percent and Bush only 5 percent. In both polls, no other Republican tops three percent.
A couple of weeks ago, Ben Carson had taken the lead over Trump in several polls. The two were in a virtual tie in others. Carson was picking off Evangelicals and women voters. Evangelicals identified with the religious values of Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist. Women preferred Carson’s quiet, soft-spoken manner. Then along came Paris and everything changed.
After the attacks, many of the Republican presidential candidates tried to use the tragedy for political gain. They all tried to convince voters they would be the toughest on Islamic extremists. All Republicans blamed Obama and his failed policies for the Paris attack and joined the chorus calling for Syrian refugees to be banned. Thirty one Republican governors banned refugees in their states. Republicans in the U.S. House passed legislation that would ban Syrian refugees from the U.S.
Three Republicans, however, took the anti-Muslim rhetoric to a different level. Ben Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.” He drew loud applause but Trump raised the stakes considerably. Trump said he would close down Mosques, engage in surveillance of American Muslims, and even require them to register and carry ID. Trump tried to soften the ID part, but has doubled down on closing Mosques, and engaging in surveillance of American Muslims.
Apparently, when it comes to anti-Muslim talk, the louder, tougher, and more mean-spirited the talk, the better the GOP base likes it. Republicans flirted with the quiet, soft-spoken candidate Ben Carson, but they think no one will keep us as safe as Trump.
The ABC/Washington Post poll found that Republicans think Carson is more honest than Trump, but 52 percent of them believe Trump will change things in Washington. Change apparently trumps honesty.
When Donald Trump entered the GOP primary, he bought his reality show expertise. Others try to imitate, but no one can out Trump the Donald. While he was reveling in the limelight over his anti-Muslim rhetoric, Trump found a way to garner additional news coverage by having a black lives matter protester thrown out of his rally in Birmingham, Alabama. The crowd loved it. Some of the Trump supporters roughed up the protestor. Trump told FOX News that the protester “deserved to be roughed up.”
Many Republicans are fearful that even though Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric are popular in the primary, they will not fly in the general election. Yet, other than some of his Republican opponents, most Republicans are afraid to criticize the front-runner.
Pundits all predicted that after the Paris attacks Republican voters would turn away from Trump and Carson and throw their support to a more experienced candidate like Bush or another of the establishment candidates. That did not happen. Once again, the pundits were wrong. Trump surged. And, to make matters worse, Trump has once again suggested that if the GOP does not nominate him, he might break his pledge and run as a third party candidate.
Grab the popcorn and stay tuned.