A new survey of Arizona Republicans shows that Ben Carson is now more popular than Donald Trump.
Conducted by MBQF Consulting, the poll found that 25.5 percent of registered Republicans would cast a ballot for Carson if the election were held today, while only 24.8 percent want Trump in the White House.
Ted Cruz came in third with 15.2 percent of the vote, followed by Marco Rubio with 14.8 percent, Jeb Bush with 6.8 percent, and Carly Fiorina with 3.5 percent.
Though the discrepancy between Carson and Trump is relatively small, and technically within the margin of error, the poll numbers do represent a sizable shift from a few weeks ago. When MBQF asked Arizonans the same question in mid-September, Trump got 29.9 percent of the vote and Carson got 21.3 percent. (Bush got 10.9 percent and Fiorina got 9.3 percent.)
"I think what you're seeing is that Trump is hitting his ceiling . . . and evangelicals are rallying around Carson," MBQF pollster Michael Noble tells New Times.
"But by far the biggest winners from the last poll [are] Cruz and Rubio," he adds.
Both Cruz and Rubio are thought to have done well in last week's Republican debate, which could account for their increased support among Arizona voters, though neither has yet to overcome the popularity of Carson and Trump.
This most recent poll reflects national surveys as well: Real Clear Politics, which regularly combines the results of multiple polls, reports Trump winning the GOP pack with 27 percent and Carson at 22.2 percent. (Rubio has 9.6 percent, Cruz has 7 percent, Bush has 6.6 percent, and Fiorina has 5.6 percent.)
"It's also interesting to see that 80 percent of voter coalesced behind four candidates; it's the thinning of the herd," Noble says, "everyone else is just hanging on by a thread."
Yet of this 80 percent, most are votes for a Carson or Trump administration, which many outside the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party see as a frightening prospect given their lack of political experience, the things they say, or the platforms they tout.
Carson questions evolution, called President Obama a “psychopath,” suggested that spending time in prison makes people gay, and wants to abolish Medicare. Trump says he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and get Mexico to fund the construction of a big wall along the southern border of the United States, and who can forget his now-infamous comment about undocumented Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they are rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
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Whether these polls are a reflection of how the party will vote in the Republican primary is the million-dollar question, but as John McCain acknowledged on Stephen Colbert's show last month, at this point in the last presidential election season, Hermain Cain and Michele Bachmann were leading the polls – and we all know how well their campaigns went . . .