Ben Carson has already stoked outrage with his suggestion that he wouldn’t want to see a Muslim president and that Islam is not consistent with the Constitution. But it appears he may only just be getting started.

Glenn Kessler has a nice catch: In a follow up interview, Carson made the claim that “Taqiyya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals.” As Kessler explains, this is a distortion of the Koran that is trafficked in by anti-Muslim diehards, with the “apparent aim of painting all Muslims as untrustworthy.” Meanwhile, Carson’s campaign manager tells the Huffington Post: “I don’t think there’s any other religion that says that people of other religions have to be killed.”

So what happens when pollsters ask Republican voters whether they agree with Carson’s sentiments?

Two recent polls suggest many of them might be favorably disposed towards Carson’s views. A Pew Research survey from last year found that Republicans and GOP-leaning independents view Muslims significantly more negatively than they see other religious groups.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports this morning: “A full 60 percent of Republicans said they viewed Islam unfavorably in a 2013 New York Times-CBS poll.”

The Times report also notes that these tendencies are worrying to Republicans, particularly those “who are determined to reorient the party to win in a changing country.” The story adds: “the debate over Islam is particularly worrisome for Republicans because it so vividly highlights the vacuum that has been created by the absence of a unifying leader who can temper the impulses of the rank-and-file.”

I would add that we’ve already seen this in the case of Donald Trump and immigration. After Trump opined that Mexican immigrants were drug dealers and rapists, some worried he would damage the GOP brand among Latinos. But a national poll subsequently showed that a majority of Republicans agreed with Trump’s general sentiments. Trump has also vowed to deport the 11 millions, and another national poll found a large majority of Republicans think the focus of immigration policy should be on securing the border and “deporting those already here.” Another poll showed three-fourths of Trump’s supporters in Iowa want mass deportations.

To be clear, I hope Republican voters overwhelmingly reject Carson’s views. As I’ve repeatedly written, it’s important to remember that a lot of GOP voters don’t share the crudest Trump-like sentiments and view immigration in a significantly more nuanced way than he does. Hopefully we’ll see the same in Carson’s case. But if pollsters do test Carson’s views — as they did with Trump’s — you could see sizable percentages of GOP voters agreeing with them. And that could produce a whole new round of hand-wringing from GOP leaders and more calls for the “responsible” GOP candidates to denounce Carson.

Of course, just as Trump did, Carson may only continue going strong. As Nate Cohn writes this morning, Scott Walker’s exit from the GOP primary and the struggles of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio suggests that the mainstream conservative candidates “have not yet shown the ability to connect broadly with GOP primary voters.” Let’s hope that the baser comments from Trump and Carson do not constitute the secret key to unlocking that door.


* CARSON, TRUMP FEEDING WORST IN OUR SOCIETY: Related to the above, note Michael Gerson’s conclusion:

Carson, Donald Trump and other Republican candidates need to step back a moment and consider what they are doing. By targeting various groups for suspicion — calling Muslims a danger to the Constitution or attacking undocumented immigrants as rapists and murderers — they are opening up a space for some of the worst elements of our society. A questioner at a Trump town hall began, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims.” People once on the political fringes now feel part of the national conversation. Trump will look into their views. Carson concurs with their fears.
What gain or goal is worth the cost of breathing life into bigotry?

If Carson continues polling well, there will be a lot more like this, but will it make any difference?

* CLINTON TO OUTLINE NEW DETAILS OF HEALTH PLAN: Today Hillary Clinton will roll out a new plan to cap out-of-pocket costs and regulate advertising by drug companies:

Clinton aides said a central component of the proposal would require health insurance plans to place a monthly limit of $250 on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for individuals….the proposal would seek to curb the amount of money drug companies spend on advertising and create a mandatory pre-clearance procedure through the Food and Drug Administration for advertising that would ensure the ads provide clear information to consumers.

This represents Clinton’s first serious effort to bring policy specifics to her pledge to “build” on Obamacare, which contrasts sharply with the vow to repeal the law, something that every one of her GOP rivals has pledged to do.

Clinton is also drawing a contrast with Mr. Sanders, who voted for the health law as a good first step but wants to replace it with a government-run health program that covers every American. Even under the law, experts project that 26 million people will remain uninsured in five years. A single-payer plan, where the government replaces insurance companies and employer-sponsored coverage, would cover everyone.

Thus, in fully embracing Obamacare, Clinton is once again not going as far left as Sanders, and is running as a mainstream Democrat.

The measure would establish as United States policy a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent each year through 2025….The bill has no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress, but Democrats say they believe that forcefully pushing for climate change policies could help them win control of the Senate in 2016.

Only two Senate Dems (Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp) say they won’t sign on, an indication that Dems are more unified on climate change than they’ve historically been; the push is also another sign that climate may play a more prominent role in 2016 than in previous cycles.

* JEB TO PUSH ROLLBACK OF GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS: The Wall Street Journal reports that Jeb Bush will propose a broad plan to roll back food-safety, environmental and other government regulations. Not surprisingly, the Bush campaign says this (plus his tax plan, which will give a huge windfall to the top one percent) are the keys to reaching four percent annual economic growth.

It will be interested to see the argument that develops if and when Jeb comes out for rolling back Obama’s new rule designed to curb carbon emissions, which is key to our participation in a global climate deal.

* REPUBLICANS BATTLE FOR WALKER’S SPOILS: With Scott Walker out, the Associated Press reports that the remaining GOP candidates are already battling to win his supporters. Jeb Bush sees a chance to capture some of Walker’s Iowa operation. Marco Rubio supporters emphasize that he, like Walker, represents a new generation of GOP leaders. John Kasich notes that he, like Walker, is the only remaining Midwestern governor.

But one strategist says: “Walker’s support is likely to be divided up among his competitors and it is likely not going to give anyone in particular a significant boost.” Trump may stay at the top.

* AND GOP LEADERS WANT TO NEGOTIATE WITH OBAMA: The Hill reports that with a government shutdown fight looming, GOP Congressional leaders want to negotiate with Obama over government funding bills, rather than with Congressional Dems:

Congressional Republicans don’t want to raise discretionary spending caps — further chipping away at what they view as the historic achievement of the 2011 Budget Control Act — unless it’s offset with cuts to entitlement programs. And they think Obama might be more willing than members of Congress to engage in tradeoffs — which could go beyond spending issues to involve reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, raising the debt ceiling or funding highway and infrastructure projects.

I’m so old I can remember when Republicans justified their refusal to move on immigration by shouting in unison that they couldn’t trust Obama enough to enter into negotiations with him.