Donald Trump and Ben Carson appear to be headed for a showdown.
The two outsiders have yet to butt heads — but that may be about to change. Republican activists and operatives are reporting that at the grassroots level, Carson’s gentler and more faith-oriented approach is winning over voters at Trump’s expense, particularly in Iowa. Both are drawing from the same broad pool of voters who are angry at the GOP establishment, but Trump’s bombast, name-calling and more secular outlook is driving many of them to the soft-spoken, retired pediatric neurosurgeon.
The real estate mogul is now damning Carson with faint praise, recently telling the Daily Caller that Carson is “a wonderful guy” and “really a friend of mine” but also “a doctor who wasn’t creating jobs.” On Friday, one day after a national Monmouth University poll showed Carson moving into second place — and looming as the only GOP candidate who could defeat Trump in a head-to-head matchup — Trump telegraphed that Carson’s free ride is coming to an end.
“Well, I’m much better as a counterpuncher, so I’d rather have, and I’m hoping for Ben to really hit me at some point, because I love to counterpunch,” the billionaire said in response to a question on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Carson, however, is the least likely candidate in the field to take the bait. His late summer surge is powered by older, conservative voters who love that he’s just like Trump, only not so rude. His gradual ascent has occurred without attacking his opponents, and in spite of a disorganized and sometimes chaotic campaign apparatus that marches to its own beat.
Carson’s camp readily acknowledges that Trump has created the conditions for a candidate like Carson to thrive.
“Donald Trump certainly ignited public awareness on issues about competency, responsiveness and quality of government, even though we’ve been talking about it for many months, he did it in a pretty loud, boisterous way,” said Carson communications director Doug Watts. “He shook people up, and with their eyes open and their ears open, they found another candidate saying the same thing, just in a different key.”
Photo Credit for Ben Carson: Gage Skidmore