WASHINGTON — Dr. Ben Carson has to be feeling good these days. The soft-spoken pediatric neurosurgeon suddenly finds himself the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, knocking Donald Trump out of top spot for the first time.
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A new CBS News/New York Times poll found Carson has the support of 26 per cent of Republican primary voters, compared to 22 per cent for long-time front-runner Donald Trump.
That’s a complete reversal from one month ago.
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For months, Carson has been nipping at the heels of the bombastic billionaire, but the new poll numbers highlight Carson’s new double-digit lead over Trump in the key battleground state of Iowa.
“If I lose Iowa, I will never speak to any of you again,” Trump joked at a rally of supporters in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday night.
Both men could well be considered non-traditional candidates, but that’s where the similarities end.
In addition to being an accomplished surgeon, Carson is an evangelical Christian and a staunch conservative who is unapologetically pro-life.
However, just as with Trump, Carson seems to land himself in hot water when he starts speaking his mind. When asked about his stance on abortion, Carson recently told NBC’s Meet The Press, “If people can come up with a reasonable explanation for why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.”
Earlier this year, he landed in hot water for another NBC Interview, in which he said he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” He later walked back from those remarks.
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The African-American candidate called President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” The Washington Post also reported Carson mentioned bestiality and pedophilia while arguing against same-sex marriage in an interview.
His views speak to the most conservative of Republicans, but he’s able to portray himself as a political outsider. A solid performance in Wednesday’s CNBC Republican debate could help solidify his position – that’s if he can avoid more controversy.
Neither Carson nor Trump’s time at the top means much this early on in the campaign. On this exact date in 2012, Herman Cain was the front-runner for the Republican nomination. It would take nearly three months for Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, to take a sizeable lead in the polls.
In fact, out of all the polling, the most important number is probably the least-reported. In the same survey that put Carson on top nationally, 70 per cent of respondents said they had not settled on a choice yet. It also happens that Trump’s supporters are far more committed to their candidate than Carson’s.