Bullying and Pyramids: even as Trump & Carson lead in polls, they seem determined to self-destruct.
New state polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina show Dr. Carson and Donald Trump continuing to lead the rest of the Republican hopefuls by a considerable, though declining, amount. National polls confirm those findings. Carson has gained on Trump over the past month and they now poll about the same. Both have had surges, and the lead has now changed hands several times. Though they still have a big lead over the rest of the field, their chances of winning the nomination are in danger of being marginalized–by their own hands or mouths, to be more precise. Trump, whose self-aggrandizing, bombastic, some say bullying style, that got him a lot of free media coverage, while appealing to about a quarter of the voters in national polls. However, that style has also earned him very high “unfavorable” views by the remainder of Republican voters, nearly all of whom had formed an opinion of him–something unusual for this early in the race for the nomination. Because of that, over a month ago we predicted a plateauing of Trump’s support. Dr. Carson, while in second place, had very high “favorable” views, and a solid base of support among “evangelical Christians.” The polls also showed, that relative to Donald Trump, a high number of voters had yet to form a firm opinion about him. Hence it was no surprise to see the Carson surge as voters, beyond Trump’s core base, began to tire of his shtick. But a funny thing happened along the way to the early primaries: Dr. Carson’s surge, which propelled him to the lead in several polls, has lost much of its steam. Why? In terms of polling, Carson seemed to have everything going for his candidacy–high favorables, good relative numbers when supporters of other candidates were asked to pick their second choice, and a body of voters who hadn’t yet formed an opinion about him–thus a pool of potential support. In addition, his candidacy got a shot-in-the-arm with the apparent blessing of Rupert Murdoch, who controls Fox, the premier Republican-biased news network, and Dr. Carson’s status as a neurosurgeon garnered him respect as it suggested a high level of intellect. Then came the debates, and Dr. Carson’s performances were somewhere between weak and unnoteworthy–yet the voters seemed to give him a pass on them. Meanwhile, as Carson’s campaign started to surge, Trump attacked his Seventh Day religion, implying a cult status. Then Carson, like Trump, opened his mouth and became his own worst enemy. While personal insults a la Trump seem beneath Dr. Carson, he has indicated ignorance and insensitivity of social needs and programs, such as his claim that women who had abortions “hated” their child, and, just in the past few days, he has made himself sound like a total fool on, of all things, the pyramids of Egypt. Someone dug up an earlier statement by him that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph, and instead of side-stepping that old comment, he doubled down. Yes, he said, he had meant what he earlier said, the archaeologists were wrong–in asserting that the pyramids were built to hold the tombs of Pharaohs–Joseph, instead, built the pyramids–to house grain. On top of that, Carson claimed that “many scientists” supported the theory that aliens built the pyramids (which theory, being contrary to his biblical explanation, he rejected). Now it is true that the bible had Joseph storing food in preparation for the seven lean years his dream analysis predicted. But, apart from the biblical account, there is no evidence at all of that occurrence. Even if one accepts the biblical story, the timing is all wrong. The Saqqara pyramid, the first to be made of stone, was built at least 400 years before Joseph’s sojourn was supposed to have taken place. The more popular pyramids of Giza predated Joseph by at least two centuries. Then comes the time it took to construct a pyramid, decades and decades and that biblical famine preparation for the first year of food gathering and storage was an immediate need. What is more, an examination of the structure of the Pyramids shows little inside area that could be used to store the food. Joseph would be a very inefficient builder if he used pyramids for that purpose–and that doesn’t even touch on the problem of retrieving the food from inside the pyramids, once the seven lean years started. Dr. Carson’s original pyramid statement was made before a little known Seventh Day Adventist college. Perhaps the “scientists” he was referring to taught there, I really don’t know. But I have never heard of one, let alone many scientists, argue for the Alien construction theory. By definition scientists are empirical; I’d like to see Dr. Carson show any empirical evidence whatsoever that supports that discredited cosmic theory. Frankly, Dr. Carson’s pyramid statements make him sound like an uneducated fool and questions his understanding of the world outside of pediatric neurological surgery. One shudders at the thought of Muslim jihadists envisioning 75 virgins on one side, and, on the other, Dr. Carson’s hand on the so-called red button, thinking of the biblical apocalypse.
Dr. Carson’s campaign isn’t yet in as much trouble as Donald Trump’s. The polls indicate that voters aren’t as fixed in their opinions of Dr. Carson and a number still haven’t heard of him. He still commands more support as voters’ second choice. And his match-up numbers against Hillary Clinton are much better than Trump’s. This may be the result of Carson’s still high, even though declining, favorability numbers, combined with his relative anonymity. But they also indicate that as opinions are formed about him by the electorate, his support level declines. A bigger question is whether gaps in his knowledge base (to put it kindly) will translate into declining poll numbers, and when? The answer to this is not as clear as our examination of Carson’s utterances would indicate. But there is poll evidence that it is beginning in some states.
Here’s the new data: CNN’s poll released November 6, finds Trump leading Carson in Iowa 25 percent to 23 percent. Ten days earlier, Carson led Trump there by double digits. This following an earlier surge by Trump that had propelled him into a 9 percent lead, 28 percent to 19 percent. WBUR/MassPolling shows Trump’s lead in New Hampshire down to 2 percentage points, 18 percent to 16 percent. Trump, just two weeks ago held a lead over Carson in N.H. of 18 percent, 28 percent to 10 percent. Trump’s biggest leads over Dr. Carson in state polls were in the South. We don’t have directly comparable figures yet, but a new North Carolina poll shows Dr. Carson leading Trump, 31 to 19 percent. At the least this should cause considerable concern in Trump’s campaign headquarters. Dr. Carson’s will likely take note of the Fox and Quinnipiac national polls that now have him slightly trailing 26 to 23 percent, and 24 to 23 percent. These polls were taken as Trump’s questioning of Carson’s religious affiliation received attention. In an NBC poll taken just a few days earlier, Carson led Trump, 29 to 23 percent. Unless one of the other hopefuls begins to separate him or herself from the rest, expect to see Trump and Carson, perhaps changing their order, but still on top of the polls– albeit their top-line numbers might well continue to edge lower. It is a race waiting for a new “now” candidate. It is there for the grabbing. The November 10 debate might prove significant, if the Republican debate moderators aren’t so intimidated by the criticism of MSNBC’s handling of the last debate that they pitch the candidates nothing but “softballs.” That debate, incidentally, will exclude Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, due to Fox’s questionable interpretation of statistical significance among low numbers in their own polls. Christie and Huckabee will be relegated to the preliminary, and not prime-time, debate. Fox also excluded Lindsey Graham from the undercard debate. Fox’s criteria for inclusion in the debates, by the way, were different from earlier Republican debates, and their exclusions may well produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.