For a rather long time, Donald Trump has looked nearly infallible as the designated Republican leader, but lately, a string of mis-steps, problematic statements and thinly veiled temper tantrums appear to have soured American voters on their most famous potential candidate – or at least, capped off his support levels.
In Iowa, at least, a new potential front-runner is on the rise: Ted Cruz. And for the first time, a candidate other than Donald Trump is within spitting distance of locking down Iowa voters, who will hold their caucus just a couple of months from now.
Ted Cruz, buoyed by tea party support and the backing of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, has surged to a virtual tie with Donald Trump in the first caucus state of Iowa, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll surveying likely Republican caucus-goers released Tuesday.
Trump took 25 percent of support, followed by 23 percent who opted for the freshman Texas senator, more than doubling his support in the same poll from October, when he earned just 10 percent. Trailing the two leaders is Ben Carson, who dropped from first to third, falling 10 points to 18 percent.
Contrary to popular assumption, though, Cruz isn’t picking up disgruntled Trump voters – those seem to be securely locked down, if, it turns out, they defy expectations and plan on voting at all – but rather disgruntled Carson supporters. Dr. Carson has sunk 10 points from his peak, and Republicans who self-identify as “Tea Partiers” are flocking to Cruz. Cruz is even outperforming in Iowa’s crucial voting bloc: white, Evangelical Christian values voters. Rubio isn’t far behind, the only other candidate to poll in double digits.
To me, this seems to be a more realistic assessment of how voting will actually go. Most of Trump’s support in Iowa seems to come from name recognition, and according to the Quinnipiac poll, many of his supporters self-identify as moderate, possibly making them part of the low-information voter pool most Republicans worry about – a win for the coalition, but an unreliable crowd for turnout. If we consider that those people may not vote in the caucuses (or, for that matter, may not know how), the fight is between Carson, Cruz and Rubio. Everyone likes Carson, but recent world events demand someone who isn’t going to “learn on the job” as far as foreign policy goes. For voters in Iowa, then, the logical choice appears to be Cruz. According to the poll, they may like Trump on terrorism, but trust the Texas Senator’s finger on the button.