- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has supplanted real estate mogul Donald Trump as No. 1 in the 2016 GOP presidential field in a new national poll released Tuesday.

Mr. Carson had the support of 26 percent of likely Republican primary voters in the CBS News/New York Times poll, followed by Mr. Trump at 22 percent, although that 4-point gap is less than the survey’s margin of error.

Support for Mr. Carson quadrupled since August, and he now leads Mr. Trump among women and is running even with him among men. Mr. Carson also leads Mr. Trump by more than 20 points among evangelical Christians.

The findings dovetailed with a spate of recent polls in the first-voting state of Iowa, where Mr. Carson has overtaken Mr. Trump in the latest RealClearPolitics average, though Mr. Trump retains an advantage in RCP’s latest national average, as well as in the second- and third-voting states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

In an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the billionaire businessman said he doesn’t understand why the polls have been bending toward Mr. Carson given a key issue: abortion.

“You look at different things having to do with Ben, and there’s a lot of contradiction and a lot of questions. We’ll have to see,” Mr. Trump said. “One thing I know about a front-runner: You get analyzed 15 different ways from China, and a lot of things will come out.

“You know, like Ben was — he was pro-abortion not so long ago,” Mr. Trump said. “And all of a sudden he’s so hard on abortion — under no circumstances, virtually, can there be exceptions. And you say, ‘Well how does that happen?’”

Mr. Trump called Mr. Carson’s change “an unusual stance” and hinted without specifics that other scandals were waiting to drop.

“They’ll look at lots of other things, including what happened in hospitals and what he was working on, and a lot of things I hear. I just don’t actually get it.”

Mr. Trump mostly had been aiming his rhetorical fire at former Gov. Jeb Bush, and his focus on Mr. Carson and his pro-life bona fides suggest he sees the contest changing.

Still, the race remains fluid as seven in 10 Republican voters in the CBS/NYT poll said it was too early to make up their minds. And more than half of Trump backers said their minds are made up, compared to 19 percent of Carson supporters.

The rest of the field was well back of the two front-runners. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was in third at 8 percent, followed by Mr. Bush and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at 7 percent apiece, with the rest of the candidates at 4 percent or less.

The survey polled 575 Republican primary voters and has an error margin of 6 percentage points.

A Carson campaign spokesman, responding to Mr. Trump’s abortion comments, called his boss’ pro-life credentials “well chronicled.”

In an August appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Carson said he makes no bones about the fact that he used to be a Democrat.

“I used to be a pretty left-wing Democrat, in fact,” the retired doctor said, characterizing himself then as “pro-choice.” “In 1992 I personally was against abortion, but I was not for causing anybody else to do anything.”

But he said, “I’ve changed because I’ve learned a lot of things.”

“If abolitionists a long time ago had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery, but anybody else can do it if they want to,’ where would we be today? So that changed my opinion of a lot of things.”

Mr. Trump himself has also changed his position on abortion over the years, saying in 2000 that “I support a woman’s right to choose” but changing since based on personal experience, among other things.

“I’m pro-life, but I changed my view a number of years ago,” he told Christian Broadcasting Network in 2011, citing the case of an unwanted child whom a male friend wanted to abort — his wife apparently refused — and now “the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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