Carson has struggled to move beyond intense scrutiny over his grasp of foreign policy and national security issues in recent weeks, which have taken heightened importance since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month. Those questions have taken a dramatic toll on Carson’s poll numbers; a national survey of Republican voters released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University showed that his support has fallen by 7 percentage points, putting him now in third place.
Carson spokesman Doug Watts said he is “not surprised” by the downward trend in several national polls.
“We’ve been the target of a lot of unfair and unfavorable publicity the past month, yet we still poll in the top ranks nationally, and frequently #1 or #2 in many state polls,” Watts told The Post in a written statement. “We are excited to bear down in the final 60 days before the Iowa Caucus where we expect to do well.”
Carson’s support among White Christian evangelicals— a crucial bloc in early-voting Iowa — has also slipped sharply, down from 32 percent last month to just 19 percent. Many of those voters appear to have thrown their support behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who ties with Carson nationally and is ahead of him in Iowa.
The campaign has made many moves to counteract that narrative that his campaign is in trouble. Last week, Carson’s team announced that it had brought prominent evangelical Johnnie Moore into the fold as a “special faith adviser.” Carson also visited two refugee camps in Jordan during Thanksgiving weekend on a quick “fact-finding” journey.
But those efforts may have been derailed after Carson angered many social conservatives Sunday while responding to the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting. Antiabortion activists swiftly blasted Carson, accusing the retired neurosurgeon of unfairly placing blame for the shooting on them.
“There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, right or left, is something that is detrimental to our society. This has been a big problem,” Carson said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion."
Conservative radio host Steve Deace on Tuesday published a column condemning Carson for providing “ammunition for those opposed to life to target pro-lifers with.” (Deace endorsed Cruz in August.)
Troy Newman, who created the controversial Planned Parenthood videos which sparked a national conversation about collecting and using fetal tissue for research, told the conservative Breitbart News that “Doctor Carson just ended his presidential candidacy.”
The endorsement also came on the same day a top Carson fundraiser and longtime friend, Bill Millis, announced his resignation from the campaign. The Wall Street Journal first reported the departure Wednesday, pointing to ongoing tensions within his staff’s ranks. Watts said that while Bill Millis is a genuinely nice man" and was a member of the campaign's board he "was not active in the campaign activities."
“People come and go — particularly when they feel that things aren’t being run the way that they want them to be run,” Carson said of Millis. “He is a friend. … You’d have to talk to him to find out what exactly he wants to happen.”