On the one hand, this is a huge sign of progress on the Republican electorate finally shaking off its "We need an outsider who has no idea what he's doing!" mantra; on the other hand, it's shooting down the only candidate in the field that had actually surpassed the lone Democrat mole candidate. So is this truly progress, or is this the conservative electorate - in Iowa, in this instance - splintering again while Donald Trump cruises to the GOP nomination?
- Me, three days ago
That question appears to have been seismically answered - again, in Iowa, at least:
Ted Cruz, buoyed by Tea Party support and the backing of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, has surged to a virtual tie with Donald Trump in the first caucus State of Iowa, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll surveying likely Republican caucus-goers released Tuesday.
Trump took 25% of support, followed by 23% who opted for the freshman Texas senator, more than doubling his support in the same poll from October, when he earned just 10%. Trailing the two leaders is Ben Carson, who dropped from first to third, falling ten points to 18%.
Of the top three, here are the changes in the Q-poll over the past month:
Again, I can see the superficial rationale of the shift from Carson to Cruz - the Islamic State's attack on Paris and al Qaeda's attack in the Malian capital over the past couple of weeks have boosted the perceived importance of perceived strength over steadiness and calm in the leadership trait goodie box. I could believe that rationale was more than just superficial if Trump had lost ten points as well to either Cruz or Marco Rubio, but that's not the case. Trump gained ground, despite being as big a foreign policy know-nothing as Dr. C. Which tells me this shift isn't nearly as much about foreign policy experience as it is GOP voters' flawed belief that what we need is a "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!" POTUS who shoots off his mouth without being able to cash the checks his piehole is writing. That, of course, is not true strength, because as we're all supposed to have learned sometime in childhood, if you're really, truly tough, you don't have to go around proving it to everybody you meet.
Allahpundit makes a good point today about Senator Cruz being the biggest beneficiary of Trump's presence in the race because against nobody else could Cruz be contrasted as being a "reasonable" alternative. But I'm detecting the same disheartening vibe developing as did in the fall of 2011, as one conservative challenger after another rose up seemingly to take on the "establishment's" Mitt Romney only to fade after a few weeks. Ben Carson's surge past Trump seemed to have staying power, arising in late August and lasting through September and October, but post-Paris, his flavor of the month(s) is fading, and now the Cruz rise looks like he's simply taking his turn in the spotlight, after which he'll dwindle back to the pack as well. I hope and pray I'm wrong about that - and bear in mind that I'm no fan of Cruz's temperment or electability - or that there's still time for Marco Rubio to get his turn and turn it into a true turning point if Cruz can't do it - but I'm growing less and less able to convince myself of that possibility, rather like the Seattle Seahawks' vanishing playoff chances.
But even if Cruz were to win the Iowa caucuses, the same additional argument would apply of the previous two Iowa winners - Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum - going nowhere after their standalone triumphs, there evangelical cred not carrying over to any other State. Cruz would presumably have a better chance of doing so, but we'll have to see if that manifests itself in national and other State surveys.
Supposedly over half of Iowa voters haven't made up their minds completely yet, so theoretically all of this could still turn upside down. But polling is about trends, not voter fickleness, and the trends are not encouraging, not by a long shot.