Recall that Dr. C's rise to Republican frontrunner status first manifested itself in Iowa, with its disproportionately evangelical Christian electorate. This made sense; Carson wears his faith (Seventh Day Adventism - kind of a Gentile Judaism, in essence) on his sleeve, whereas Trump fits that constituency like socks on a rooster. But that still looked similar to Mike Huckabee's and Rick Santorum's Iowa Caucus victories the last two presidential election cycles, niche triumphs that didn't translate to other States and probably wouldn't for Gentle Ben, either.
Then he overtook and passed Trump nationally and has stayed on top for several weeks. And now Carsonmania has flipped a State in which, until very recently, The Donald had been more dominant than perhaps any other:
The (biggest) losers:
I didn't include Scott Walker because he's already conceded defeat (i.e. the difference between losing and lost).
In team sports, there's a saying: "They didn't win, we lost" and vice versa. The meaning is that sometimes you just stink up the joint and sometimes you play well but the other team just plays better. In South Carolina it isn't hat Donald Trump's campaign is collapsing, it's that Ben Carson's has gotten stronger and stronger, nibbling support away from the whole rest of the field aside from Rubio and Cruz and making it significantly add up. Precisely the dynamic that many predicted would be the case with Trump - that he's at his support ceiling and only looked like the frontrunner because the remaining 70%-75% of the GOP vote was being split a bazillion different ways - except that aside from Walker and Rick Perry, the field is undiminished, and still Trump has been reeled in.
There are also very interesting demographic developments in the Palmetto State:
Carson has improved his standing across the ideological spectrum since August, with increased support among voters who call themselves very conservative (up ten points to 31%), somewhat conservative (up fourteen to 27%), and moderate (up fourteen to 24%).
A unifying figure bridging the canyonesque gap in the raging GOP civil war. Broad-based support that is the hallmark of not just successful frontrunners, but general election winners. And built not on the sand of fratricidal anger and resentment but trust and philosophical substance.
Which, along with more GOP voters paying close, serious attention to the race, helps explain these heartening trends in Dr. C's main rival's numbers:
Trump has lost support among very conservatives (down eleven points to 22%), stayed steady among somewhat conservatives (down two to 29%), and gained support among moderates (up eight points to 31%)…. [emphases added]
In essence, Trump is becoming the default "establishment" candidate. Or perhaps the "radical moderate outsider". Whatever creative labeling one want to use, in South Carolina, at least, the makeup of his support is finally starting to become a match for what he is - mercurial, unprincipled, shallow, and unserious. Perhaps Tea Party Trumpsters are finally starting to wake up from their summer benders and shamefacedly and quietly filing over to the Carson column. The vast majority of them, anyway, and not to Ted Cruz, which I find very telling, especially in terms of the latter's tempestuous temperment compared to the calm, statesmanlike retired pediatric neurosurgeon.
Another source of Carson's surge is very, yes, Obamaesque:
Carson leads the field among voters under fifty years old at 38% support compared to 24% for Trump, 7% for Cruz, 7% for Bush, and 5% for Rubio. Among those age 65 and older, Trump (26%) has a narrow lead, followed closely by Rubio (19%), Carson (17%), Cruz (10%), and Bush (8%).
Carson is competitive among seniors, but is cleaning up with younger voters. That's particularly significant given (1) how much more motivated conservative/Republican voters are than their Democrat counterparts (a fourteen point margin), (2) how large a portion of that enthusiasm gap is accounted for by the profound apathy and disinterest of young voters whose anomalously high turnout in '08 and '12 was driven by the "historic" Obama candidacy, and (3) the two overwhelming traits of the 2016 Donk presidential field being "older than the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation" and "Albino white".
It's also significant in the context of the current media character assault on Dr. C. over his forty-plus year old autobiographical recollections, which is something that younger voters are disproportionately unlikely to care much or at all about.
All the usual caveats apply, of course - it's only been a few days since the already-debunked Politico and CNN smears, there's a long way to go and the Obamedia won't give up until Ben Carson is in an unmarked grave, etc. But his slow and steady rise does not appear to be slowing down, is now unmistakably spreading out, and looks to have more staying power than either the billionnaire slumlord and his press fans suspected.
Exit question: I'm a free-agent voter, my candidate (the aformentioned Governer Walker) having already bowed out, but can you imagine a bigger nightmare scenario for the Obamunist Left than for a conservative Republican African-American to become the second "Teflon President"?