That Crazy GOP Race in Iowa Just Got A Little Crazier

AUGUST 31, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson autographs a campaign sign at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

What’s going on here?

This morning, the unpredictable Republican race in Iowa took yet another unlikely right turn.  Over the past few days, the respected Monmouth University Poll surveyed likely GOP Iowa caucus goers about the candidates, and if the contest was held today, here would be your current leaders:

Donald Trump — 23%
Ben Carson — 23%
Carly Fiorina — 10%
Ted Cruz — 9%
Scott Walker — 7%
Jeb Bush — 5%

Let’s take that in for a moment.

If you add the totals of the two leading candidates, nearly half of the likely GOP caucus voters support someone who has never before run for elective office.  And if you add the third place finisher, Carly Fiorina, fully 56% of these voters favor a candidate who has never held any kind of elective office or has had any experience governing.

That’s pretty stunning.

This is not to say that voter support for non-politicians in primaries is unprecedented.  Evangelist Pat Robertson finished second in the 1988 Iowa caucuses, ahead of eventual nominee George H.W. Bush.  Commentator Pat Buchanan garnered 3 million votes in a 1992 Presidential bid and in 1996 actually won 4 state primaries over Bob Dole.

But it feels different this year with these three candidates.  Robertson and Buchanan had outside careers that embraced a specific political POV.  Trump, Carson and Fiorina did not.  Their current support suggests a deep and widespread anger within the party against politicians in general, whether they serve in Congress or in their governorships.

Granted it’s only the end of August, what has traditionally been called the “silly season” in politics when voters are merely window shopping among the candidates.  Conventional wisdom still holds that the closer voters are to casting their actual ballots, they’ll return to the establishment fold rather than throw their vote away on a non-politician.  But based on these numbers, if my name was either Cruz, Walker or Bush, I’d be worried.