- The Washington Times - Monday, November 9, 2015

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has caught up to billionaire businessman Donald Trump in South Carolina and has picked up 13 points of support since August, according to a Monmouth University poll on the 2016 GOP presidential field in the state released Monday.

Mr. Carson had the support of 28 percent of GOP primary voters in the state, followed closely by Mr. Trump at 27 percent, according to the Monmouth poll.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was in third at 11 percent, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 9 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 7 percent.

“Trump’s South Carolina support has held fairly steady, which means that Carson’s bump has actually come at the expense of almost everyone else in the field,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

In a Monmouth poll conducted in late August, Mr. Trump had been at 30 percent, followed by Mr. Carson at 15 percent, Mr. Bush at 9 percent, Mr. Rubio and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at 6 percent apiece, and Mr. Cruz at 5 percent.

Mrs. Fiorina’s support was at 2 percent in the survey out Monday, down 4 points from the last poll.

Mr. Trump still has about a 7-point edge over Mr. Carson in the state in the latest RealClearPolitics average of public polling.

But the poll showed Mr. Carson make gains across the ideological spectrum since August. He also led Mr. Trump by 9 points, 33 percent to 24 percent, among evangelical Christians after Mr. Trump had led Mr. Carson among that group by a 33 percent to 18 percent margin three months ago.

Mr. Carson also led the field among voters under 50 years old with 38 percent support, compared to 24 percent for Mr. Trump, 7 percent apiece for Mr. Cruz and Mr. Bush, and 5 percent for Mr. Rubio. Among people ages 65 and older, Mr. Trump was in the lead at 26 percent, followed by Mr. Rubio at 19 percent and Mr. Carson at 17 percent.

“The pundits are making a lot out of Rubio’s potential generational appeal. They may have the wrong generation, though,” Mr. Murray said. “Rubio actually does better in the ‘grandma vote’ than he does among his own age cohort. Carson is actually the top choice of younger voters.”

Mr. Carson, as he has been in other polls, was also the best-liked candidate overall, with a 76 percent favorable rating and a 12 percent unfavorable rating. Mr. Rubio was close behind with a 62 percent/18 percent favorable/unfavorable split.

Mr. Trump also got positive marks, with a 58 percent/29 percent favorable/unfavorable split. Mr. Cruz had a positive 52 percent/21 percent split.

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was at a slightly negative 41 percent/43 percent split — down from a positive 52 percent/32 percent split three months ago.

The survey also took a look at the various candidates’ levels of support if the field was split into different brackets.

In an “outsider” bracket, Mr. Carson was at 39 percent, followed by Mr. Trump at 30 percent, Mr. Cruz at 15 percent and Mrs. Fiorina at 7 percent. Mr. Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, but he has tangled with leadership in both parties since arriving on Capitol Hill.

When those four candidates were excluded, Mr. Rubio led with 32 percent support, followed by Mr. Bush at 13 percent, Mr. Christie at 10 percent and Mr. Huckabee at 8 percent.

“It’s highly unlikely that the GOP contest will continue into the spring without at least one of the outsider candidates still in the race,” Mr. Murray said. “However, Marco Rubio looks to be the fallback position for many voters should this field ever get winnowed down.”

Overall, though, just 17 percent of likely GOP primary voters say they’re completely decided, with slightly more — 20 percent — saying they are truly undecided.

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