After more than a week of this, Carson is an old pro at responding to this sort of thing—he’s spent a week fending off queries from the media. Carson seems to have in many cases successfully turned the story into a discussion of media ethics and bias. The reason Trump is attacking Carson, of course, is that Carson is the first Republican to seriously challenge Trump’s lead in the polls. (How durable is Carson’s support? There have been no polls released since Tuesday’s debate, but Carson might already have peaked—his numbers have slightly dipped recently:
Many political observers are still confident that neither Trump nor Carson has any shot at the nomination. Among the more standard candidates, Jeb Bush delivered a passable performance at the Milwaukee debate, but hasn’t arrested his slide; John Kasich’s bellicose approach was widely panned. So that leaves Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz battling for support. The smart money seems to be on Rubio—helped by the personal antipathy many in the GOP feel toward the Texas senator.
The result has been a steadily intensifying offensive by Cruz against Rubio. It started in earnest during the debate, where Cruz took a hardline against immigration reform and demanded deportation of unauthorized immigrants. He also took a shot at sugar subsidies. While he didn’t name Rubio in either case, the Floridian was clearly his intended target—he was a central element of the failed push for immigration reform, and is close to sugar executives who want the subsidies to stay in place.
On Thursday, Cruz continued to ratchet up the pressure, telling Laura Ingraham that on the issue of immigration, “talk is cheap.” “You know where someone is based on their action,” he said. “When politicians say the exact opposite of what they've done in office and I'd treat that with a pretty healthy degree of skepticism.”
The Washington Post reports that the continued success of Carson and Trump—to say nothing of Cruz’s resilience—has started to freak out Republican Party mandarins.
The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them. Recent focus groups of Trump supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire commissioned by rival campaigns revealed no silver bullet.
How bad are things, really? “According to other Republicans, some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney—despite his insistence that he will not run again.”
It’s hard to imagine that Romney could make it any more clear that he’s not running—and hard to imagine that many Republicans would really be eager to see the return of a man whose campaign in 2012 was widely lambasted, beset by bad messaging, strategic miscues, and technological failures.