Trump Still Leads the GOP Pack While Carson Falters
Policy + Politics

Trump Still Leads the GOP Pack While Carson Falters

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The latest national polls in the wake of the deadly ISIS attacks in Paris and the subsequent uproar over whether the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees find billionaire Donald Trump still at the top of the GOP heap.

Most Republican nominees reject Trump’s calls for surveillance of “certain mosques,” and the creation of Muslim watch lists or databases. Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Related: How Trump, Carson and Cruz Turned Republican Voters Against the GOP

A new Washington Post-ABC News national poll shows Trump leading the field with 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 22 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 11 percent.

A Fox News poll has Trump at 28 percent of likely Republican voters nationally, a two-point improvement since the attack in Paris that killed 130 and left hundreds more injured. And the latest CBS tracking polls shows Trump ahead in Iowa with 30 percent of likely Republican voters, and in New Hampshire, with 32 percent. The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary will kick off the election season early next year and are certain to be crucial to the outcome of the battle for the GOP nomination.

“I’m leading because people are sick and tired of stupid and incompetent people leading our nation,” Trump said Sunday in an interview on ABC News’ This Week. “When President Obama stands up and says ‘ISIS is contained,’ and then a few hours later you have one of the most horrible attacks where hundreds of people are killed and you have 300 people lying in the hospital, many of them dying … we have a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing; we have a president who is totally incompetent.”

Related: Trump Gets Thumped in Fourth GOP Debate

While Trump repeatedly crowed yesterday about the continued success of his anti-Washington, anti-immigration strategy, the polls suggest an important scrambling of the race just below him that could profoundly influence the outcome once the voting actually begins.

Among those developments:

Carson is losing altitude, both in national and statewide surveys. While he remains one of the most popular candidates in the crowded field, the former surgeon, inspirational speaker and author has been battered in recent weeks over allegations that he exaggerated important details of his life story and that he is in over his head when it comes to a grasp of national security and foreign policy matters. Even a key adviser to his campaign said Carson has trouble absorbing complex information about national security issues.

Related: The Media Finally Wakes Up to the Ben Carson Phenomenon

At a time when national security and a growing fear of ISIS dominate the political debate, many Iowa Republicans don’t think Carson is ready to become the commander in chief. Only 43 percent of those surveyed by CBS News said they would trust Carson to command U.S. forces, compared to 67 percent for Cruz, 51 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and 49 percent for Trump.

Of course, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement of Trump’s capabilities to command forces against terrorism. But so far, his bombastic, often outrageous pronouncements on defense and illegal immigrants haven’t hurt his overall standing with Republican voters.

That’s because a majority of Republicans say that an ability to bring needed change to Washington is the most important attribute of a presidential candidate, and 47 percent of those interviewed by The Washington Post and ABC News said Trump is best equipped to bring that change – compared to 22 percent for Carson.

Related: Here’s Why Trump and Other ‘Outsiders’ Are Leading the GOP

Rubio and Cruz, both the sons of Cuban immigrants with substantial appeal to younger voters and the GOP’s conservative base, are moving up in the polls and may be well positioned to take the lead should Trump and Carson falter.

Cruz recently began blasting Rubio for his role in supporting a comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants had it passed the House. Rubio has responded that Cruz shared “almost all the same views on immigration.” He has also criticized Cruz for refusing to explain how he would deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants living in this country.

According to the new CBS News poll, Trump leads in Iowa with 30 percent of the likely Republican vote, while Cruz is second with 21 percent, Carson third with 19 percent and Rubio fourth with 11 percent.