One Group Is Quietly Helping Ben Carson Overtake Donald Trump

October 24th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has pulled ahead of former front-runner Donald Trump in an Iowa polling upset largely driven by evangelical voters and women, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.

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The results of the Republican caucus poll mark a departure from a weeks-long trend in Iowa, and a months-long trend nationally with Trump in the leading position. But it also marks what could be a somewhat unsurprising trend for women Republican voters who have strayed from Trump's often denigrating rhetoric and bombastic style, seeing a gentler, more thoughtful candidate in the former neurosurgeon.

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What's happening in Iowa?

Carson, with 28 percent of support, beat Trump's 20 percent in the Quinnipiac poll, a near reversal from a Quinnipiac poll in September that showed Trump with 27 percent support and Carson with 21 percent. Crucially in the most recent poll, Carson had more than double the support Trump could claim among women voters—33 to 13 percent. In fact, 84 percent of Republicans said that Carson, whom they said was honest and trustworthy, shared their values.

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"It's Ben Carson's turn in the spotlight," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.

Ben Carson

Carson's gain in Iowa is the latest of the candidate's recent popularity boosts—something analysts still have a hard time understanding.

"As they've been pondering for six months, many in the political world still are trying to understand Carson's appeal and how someone who seems to be operating outside the traditional news media/political environment is doing so well among the most conservative GOP voters," said Brown.

Carson's success with evangelical Christian voters is perhaps no surprise, given the rise of evangelicals in the state and Carson's religious bent, as the New York Times noted. But his success with Republican women is not surprising, either, considering Trump's penchant for making sexist remarks.

In the heated first Republican debates in August, Fox News host and moderator Megyn Kelly called out Trump for his history of misogynistic remarks to women, asking the candidate about instances where he called women "fat pigs," "disgusting animals," and "dogs." Trump noted that the remarks had only been directed at comedian Rosie O'Donnell, whom he once criticized in an interview.