Is Carson fading in Iowa?

Politico claims that Ben Carson is “los[ing] his hold on Iowa’s conservatives:

Across the state and at a major gathering of politically active evangelicals on Friday night, foreign policy was top-of-mind for the voters and state lawmakers once considered natural constituents for Carson. But after a week of confused comments from the former neurosurgeon and a dismissive critique by his own advisors, Iowans are now consistently voicing doubt about Carson’s credentials to be commander-in-chief.

Indeed, they said the terrorist attacks have reordered the candidates in their mind, lifting Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio and, for many, making Carson an afterthought.

I’m a little gun shy when it comes to Politico stories about Ben Carson, so I decided to see if poll data supports its thesis that the doctor is fading in Iowa. Unfortunately, I could find only one recent Iowa poll — a survey taken by an outfit called Morning Consult on behalf of something called Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.

The poll was taken from November 10 through November 16. Thus, its results reflect opinion both before and after the Paris attacks and do not include the period during which Politico claims Carson made “confused comments” about foreign policy. In addition, only 239 registered Republicans participated in the portion of the poll pertaining specifically to the GOP candidates.

For what it’s worth, the Morning Consult poll puts Donald Trump in first place in Iowa with 29 percent support. Carson comes in second at 17 percent. He’s followed by Marco Rubio (12 percent), Ted Cruz (9 percent), and Jeb Bush (9 percent).

This poll, to the extent one takes it seriously, does suggest that Carson is slipping. A Real Clear Politics average of the four most recent previous Iowa polls (all taken around the beginning of November) had Trump and Carson virtually tied.

A national online poll of Republicans taken by NBC News just after the Paris attacks also shows erosion of support for Carson. In this survey, Trump led Carson 28-18 (with Cruz also at 18 percent). At the end of October, Carson and Trump were tied for first place at 27 percent.

It stands to reason that Carson might slip to the extent that foreign policy becomes an increasingly significant factor in the minds of GOP caucus-goers. None of the leading GOP candidates has much experience in the area of foreign policy, but Rubio and Cruz talk it well and Trump comes across as a plausible hard-liner (though his positions aren’t consistently all that hard line — e.g., let Putin handle ISIS). Carson doesn’t talk foreign policy particularly well, nor does he seem well-matched for the tough guy role.

In short, Carson may be slipping in Iowa, but I’m not going to take Politico’s word for it.

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