Why do I say that? Because (1) Gentle Ben has caught Trump in the polls and (2) of the way he's caught Trump in the polls: the calm, statesmanlike telling of inconvenient truths, such as his pointing out that Islam is incompatible with constitutional government, without bombast or belligerence or personal attacks against the ostensible "GOP" frontrunner. As the electorate slowly begins to pay more attention to the 2016 presidential campaign and take it more seriously, they're gradually coming back around to the recognition that seriousness is more important than entertainment value.
The "summer of Trump," in other words, is coming to an end, and the tactics and behavior that shot The Donald into the stratosphere are unlikely to be as successful in fending off a "nice" challenger:
GOP front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday that he knows he'll have to go on the attack against Ben Carson, who is inching closer to him in the polls, but for now, Carson is just too nice.
"He's been so nice to me, I can't do it," Trump told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America.
But he knows he's going to do it later? So why is it stopping him now? When did it ever before? Heck, even referring to Dr. Carson as "nice" sounds like a put-down coming out of Trump's piehole.
A new Fox News poll puts Carson just one percentage point behind Trump, at 24% to 23%. Further, the poll showed that voters see Carson as being more ethical than other candidates, and he had the largest number of GOP voters who say they'll definitely vote for him. Trump said Wednesday that he can't explain the new numbers.
"I've been number one for a long time and I'm number one in every poll, in most cases by very big numbers, in double-digit numbers," Trump said. "He's been getting a lot of ink on the Muslims and other things, and I guess people look at that and they probably like it. Some people thought they wouldn't like it but they probably do."
I provided Trump his explanation above. I'll even restate it differently here if it will help his grasp of the what-should-be-obvious: It is, after all, possible to be right on an issue and state the truth about it in full candor without tearing down one's rivals and otherwise being a dick.
THAT is Ben Carson's appeal. THAT is why he's reeled in Donald Trump. THAT is Dr. Carson's strength. "Going on the attack" against the retired neurosurgeon can only backfire against Trump in any number of different ways. He mentioned going after Dr. Carson's lack of political experience, which is the epitome of the pot calling the kettle, um, black - and, remember, is irrationally being thought of as an asset in this cycle. He could remind Republican primary/caucus voters of Dr. Carson's pro-ethanol and pro-amnesty stances and his squishiness on ObamaCare, but that would just remind voters of how Trump is all over the place himself on these issues, as well as his not-too-distant liberal Democrat past. And if Trump swings below the belt in his trademark gleeful fashion, well, he'll be forgetting his Sun Tzu by attacking his opponent's strength as opposed to his weaknesses that are, in turn, equaled or surpassed by his own.
WHEN Trump swings below Dr. Carson's belt, I should say. Because The Donald really and truly cannot help himself. Verbal ball-shots are simply what he does. And just as with any other commodity, it will reach its point of diminishing returns, hopefully well before actual votes begin being cast.
Will Ben Carson be the primary beneficiary of that worm-turning? We'll just have to wait and see.