Why Ben Carson is surging in the polls

Christian Science Monitor:
Ben Carson, in many ways, is the antithesis of Donald Trump.

And they’re both hot properties in the GOP presidential nomination race, ranked one and two nationally, and tied for the lead in the latest poll out of Iowa. Trump and Carson each got 23 percent of the vote among likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday. Iowa’s Republican caucuses, scheduled for Feb. 2, are the first contest in the 2016 nominating race, and are a crucial test.Mr. Trump is loud and bombastic; Dr. Carson is low-key and genial. When Trump speaks, he chops his hands in the air as if to enhance his brashness. Carson has calm, steady, surgeon’s hands – “Gifted Hands,” as his memoir is titled. Trump comes across as the aggressively self-confident businessman he is; Carson has the bedside manner of the physician he is.

The outsider appeal of the three nonpoliticians in the GOP race – Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard – is well-documented. For Trump and Carson, another common denominator is authenticity. Each is being himself, and in a field packed with career politicians, that’s a plus.

Carson is gaining support because “he’s viewed as principled,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Second, he’s widely seen as likeable. And third, he doesn’t talk like a politician. Any time voters hear something that sounds like political double talk, they tune out.”

Carson’s likeability shines in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll that came out over the weekend. Among all 17 Republican presidential candidates, Carson ranked first on favorability at 79 percent, with only 8 percent viewing him unfavorably.

In the first Republican debate, held Aug. 8, Trump dominated in every way – both in the coverage of his comments and in the amount of time he consumed (11:14). Carson got about half as much speaking time (6:46) and was seen as almost sleepy, until the end, when he sprang to life and made one of the more memorable statements.

“I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins...,” Carson said, “the only one to operate on babies while they were still in the mother’s womb, the only one to take out half of a brain – although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it.”

That comment brought down the house. It was probably pre-planned and rehearsed, but Carson delivered it with such ease – and a smile – that Republicans ate it up.
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I have seen Carson speak in person and on TV and he is the same in both context.  He comes across as thoroughly likable.   But he also has a great back story of a person who was able to rise above his circumstances to achieve great things.  My main concern about his is whether he can stand up to the viciousness of the Washington cartel as Ted Cruz calls it.  I can understand why he has a high likability score.

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