Carson Ties Trump in South Carolina

United States presidential election, 2016

A Monmouth University poll finds Ben Carson and Donald Trump in a dead heat among likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina.

Among voters likely to participate in South Carolina’s Republican primary in February, 28% support Ben Carson and 27% support Donald Trump.  Marco Rubio places third at 11%, followed by Ted Cruz (9%) and Jeb Bush (7%).  None of the other ten candidates in the field scores higher than 2%.

Monmouth’s prior South Carolina poll was conducted in late August just as Carson had started to surge after the first debate.  In that poll, Trump led Carson by 30% to 15%.  Since then, Trump’s support has held fairly steady, trailing off by only 3 points, while Carson’s support has nearly doubled.  Rubio’s share of the vote has grown by 5 points and the Cruz vote has increased by 4 points. Over that same time, Jeb Bush has lost 2 points.  Other candidates who have lost support since August include Carly Fiorina (down 4 points to 2%) and home-state [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ] (down 3 points to 1%).

While remaining skeptical of the actual numbers, this South Carolina data mirrors the movement we have seen in virtually all other polls. Ben Carson and Donald Trump are the clear front runners for the nomination and their total vote share is over 50%. When one looks at the three outsider candidates, Carson, Trump, and Fiorina, their vote total routinely approaches 60% of the total. The next tier of candidates is composed of Florida [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and Texas [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]. Both are in a virtual tie at about 10% each. Then there is the rest of the field.

One interesting thing Monmouth did was run hypothetical head-to-head

The poll also presented voters with a hypothetical contest that included eight of the more establishment-type candidates – specifically excluding Trump, Carson, Fiorina, and Cruz (my italics).  In this fantasy playoff bracket, Marco Rubio leads with 32% support, while Jeb Bush (13%) and Chris Christie (10%) trail far behind.  Rounding out the field are Mike Huckabee (8%), Bobby Jindal (4%), Lindsey Graham (4%), [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] (4%), and John Kasich (3%).  Another 11% say they would not vote for any of the candidates in this hypothetical match-up.  Among current Trump supporters, 26% would go with Rubio from this field of eight, 14% would choose Christie, and 9% select Bush.  Among Carson voters, it’s Rubio (36%) in the lead, followed by Bush (13%), Christie (10%), and Huckabee (10%).

I am not terribly clear on why Ted Cruz was ruled out of the equation as he is well positioned to be in the race by the time South Carolina rolls around and he is a “establishment” as Bobby Jindal. One has to assume he would have been a significant second choice. What it does show is that Rubio (and I would posit Cruz) will take a huge share of the second choice vote if either Trump or Carson falter.