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Trump Sliding? Ben Carson Takes Commanding 14 Point Lead Over The Donald In Latest Iowa Poll

Polling for the GOP presidential primary has begun to stretch even the most flexible limits of reality and credibility.

It was just on Friday when we reported that according to "insiders" polled by Politico, the most likely candidate poised to snatch the presidential nomination was Donald Trump. And then everything changed today, when according to a Monmouth University poll Ben Carson now has a 14-point lead over Donald Trump among likely GOP caucus-goers in Iowa.

As reported by CBS, 32% said they back Carson compared to 18% for Trump.

This is a dramatic jump for Carson, who is up 9% compared to last month's Monmouth Iowa poll, while Trump has slid by 5%. Marco Rubio was also up by 6 percentage points.

According to the latest poll, 10 percent said they support Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 10 percent said they back Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and 8 percent said they back former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Five percent said they back former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, three percent support Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, two percent back former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two percent support Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and two percent support Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

What is more surprising is how broad Carson's lead appears to be across practically all verticals:

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, now leads Trump among all ideological groups. He leads Trump by nine percentage points among very conservative voters and by 21 percentage points among somewhat conservative voters. Carson also has a 17-percentage-point lead over Trump among moderate to liberal voters in Iowa.

 

More than a third of likely GOP caucus-goers who are evangelical Christians back Carson while 18 percent of that group said they support Trump. Carson also holds a 9-percentage-point lead over Trump among non-evangelicals.

 

Carson leads Trump among women 34 percent to 17 percent, the poll found, and Carson leads Trump among men by 11 percentage points.

 

Eighty-four percent said they view Carson favorably and 53 percent said the same about Trump.

How credible was the poll, and will it evoke even more emotional responses by Trump? It is unclear: however one thing is becoming obvious - who is the frontrunning Republican candidate is entirely dependent on who is asked.

As the NYT summarizes, "Marco Rubio has taken a noticeable lead over Jeb Bush and other Republicans in the prediction markets. Ben Carson is now leading in the Iowa polls, pulling ahead of Donald Trump, who had been in first place since July."

The polls get most of the attention, but they’re not the most important part of the early stages of a presidential campaign. The better guide to who’s really winning is known as the “invisible primary,” in which candidates compete for support from their fellow politicians, from party leaders and from donors.

 

A candidate who wins the invisible primary usually wins the party nomination. At the least, the eventual nominee tends to be a candidate who was a close runner-up. Why? The support of party leaders is both a sign of a candidate’s long-term strength and a source of future strength.

 

As for the polls, they’re not irrelevant, even at this early stage. But the national polls matter less than the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote and the states where voters are paying more attention to the candidates.

Bottom line: nobody still has any idea who will be the Republican candidate, although the NYT is now quite comfortable predicting if not the next president, then certainly the Democratic primary winner.