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Hold That Fork: Donald Trump Soaring in Iowa

There’s been a whole lot of talk recently about how Donald Trump‘s ride at the top of the Republican primary field may finally be over, blunted by Carly Fiorina‘s star-making debate performance and Trump’s own poor performance. The mainstream media types who just refuse to believe that Republican voters actually are the way every poll proves they are got a little bit of good news this week when a CNN/ORC poll showed that Trump’s support had dropped by eight points, while Carly Fiorina shot up by 12, passing Ben Carson for second place. See? Maybe Republicans aren’t so racist after all (even though they’re ditching their one black candidate for a white lady who ruins businesses).

The momentary slide in Trump’s support has led to a whole new round of speculation that Trump has peaked:

Not so fast, there, Skippy. According to a new poll out of Iowa, also taken after last week’s debate, Trump’s support has increased by over a quarter, while Carson kept pace and Fiorina saw a milder three-point bump:

PPP’s new Iowa poll finds Donald Trump continuing to lead in the state with 24% to 17% for Ben Carson, and 13% for Carly Fiorina.

After the first debate, Trump was at 19% in Iowa, to Carson’s 12% and Fiorina’s 10%.

Now, people have a tendency to see what they want to in polls, and if I’m keeping it 100, I really want to see Trump rebound from that debate performance because it will prove me right. To be fair, though, I have been right about Trump every single step of the way. So, here’s what I said minutes after that second debate:

The biggest gainer here was Carly Fiorina, who showed a lot of strength steamrolling the moderators’ time limits and played very well with the audience. Trump’s performance is probably a wash, but he hurt Bush a few times.

The results of the CNN poll bear that out, with Trump taking a slight hit and Fiorina rising. Then, I said that the racist town hall guy who started this renewed anti-Islam crusade among GOP frontrunners was going to rescue Trump from his bad debate juju. This Iowa poll is the first one released that took place after that incident, and it appears to prove me correct. It also shows that those five points that Trump gained are exactly the amount that Jeb Bush lost.

That New Hampshire incident is practically ancient history now, though, because a lot has happened in the interim. How will that all play out in next week’s polls? The short answer is more Trump.

First, Carly Fiorina will be lucky to see her support hold steady, but it will probably slip a little. Since the debate, all of the discussion about Fiorina (aside from her jump in the polls) has been about what a terrible CEO she was while her company was doing business with Iran. Much, much worse than that, though, was Fiorina’s contribution to the current Donald Trump/Ben Carson Muslim bash-off. On Monday night, she told Jimmy Fallon that Carson was “wrong” to say that a Muslim should never be president, and even had something nice to say about the Muslim faith:

I think that’s wrong. It says in our Constitution that religion cannot be a test for office.”

“…whether it’s a person of Christian faith or Jewish faith or Muslim faith or other faiths, I think faith gives us humility, empathy and optimism, and I think those are important things.”

You would be fine with that? 

“Yes, I would be fine with that.”

The line got a huge round of applause from the audience, but it will hurt Fiorina with a Republican electorate that is overwhelmingly hostile to Muslims. In that new Iowa poll, in fact, less than half of Republican voters even think the religion of Islam should be legal in the United States.

That’s why Ben Carson and Donald Trump will be fighting it out to see who can gain the most support for slamming Muslims this week. Carson jumped out ahead by saying that a Muslim should never be president, but Trump earns points for repeatedly conflating Islam with terrorism, even as he sort of walked back his support for Carson’s comments. Breaking the tie is the fact that Trump also managed to get in a dig at President Obama in the process.

The other factor that will have Trump rising in the polls again next week is Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) announcement that he’s dropping out of the race, in which he told reporters that God had called on him to quit so that someone else could beat Donald Trump. Whatever angry white voters are still up for grabs will flock to Trump’s side rather than allow the “cuckservative” establishment to try and neuter him.

What I foresee, then, is a consolidation of the hostile Republicans (which is most of them) around Trump, some slippage for Fiorina, a slight rebound for Carson, and some movement at the establishment bottom toward Marco Rubio. Trump isn’t done yet, not by a damn sight.

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