The latest national polls have brought some early Christmas cheer to a few Republican presidential contenders and a dose of cold reality to others.
According to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, Ben Carson plummeted a whopping seven points from his position last month to tie Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in third place at 16 percent. Moving into Carson’s second-place position was fresh-faced Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, taking 17 percent of the pie. Meanwhile, fellow Floridian and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has maintained his spot at five percent, placing
the man who was projected as the probable front-runner at the start of campaign season in a tough spot. The actual front- runner, stymying Bush’s rise (and needled him ceaselessly on the debate stage), is reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who polled at 27 percent.
The poll is a victory for Rubio and Cruz, the two young senator-contenders, especially. Both were polling in single digits for the last several months before ramping up their campaigns after the third Republican debate. Both have turned in strong debate performances. And both benefit from a public desire for top-down change, as well as a shift in feelings toward establishment figures following the Paris bombings.
With his membership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and foreign affairs expertise, Rubio has benefit- ted in particular from the rising profile of foreign policy on the campaign trail and in the media following the Paris attacks, the Russian intervention in Syria and the downing of a Russian jet by the Islamic State.
Cruz, known for his staunch anti-immigrant stance, has benefited from the talk surrounding the potential relocation of Syrian refugees to the United States, as some voters have looked for a candidate to rally behind to oppose this measure.
Carson has suffered because of this rise in the importance of foreign affairs on the campaign trail. Carson has admitted before that he is unaware of news events. Between that and making several gaffes in press conferences when discussing foreign nations–such as claiming that the pyramids were not tombs but actually ancient grain silos—Carson was already playing with a handicap. Voters appear to be turning away from Carson because he seems unable to keep America safe in an increasingly dangerous world and lacks the expertise and message discipline optioned with other candidates.
Finally, Trump seems to be enjoying success in part due to his response to the recent spate of ISIS terrorist attacks, saying that he will bomb “the shit out of them.” While this might make for a good sound bite, it is certainly not a strategic plan and continues to demonstrate and illuminate not only Trump’s own ignorance, but that of the 27 percent of Americans who seem to think that a Trump presidency is a good idea.
While it is useful to track the polls, it is important to keep in mind that we are still a couple of months out until the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. Foreign affairs is currently at the top of the agenda, but it is anyone’s guess what will be the most important issue when the voting actually begins.