Donald Trump may still be leading the Republican field, but fellow outsider candidate Dr. Ben Carson is closing in, and both are leaving the rest of the field behind.
In order to get a sense of what the conservative grassroots movement is thinking about the race, and about the two front-runners, CNN’s Dana Bash sat down with the leaders of three key, conservative groups.
Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self Governance and co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said Trump is hitting a nerve within the Republican Party. “He’s speaking to something that resides deep in the American public psyche.”
“It hits at the core of what people are looking for,” said David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, a conservative group with more than 7.3 million supporters online. “They’re tired of being told by the Republican Party not only can we not win, we’re just not going to fight.”
David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth, a group that recently released an ad in Iowa attacking Trump, said, “I think they like his angry style, in your face to Washington.” But, Trump’s signature, aggressive style may also be contributing to Carson’s rise. “Most Americans I know are uncomfortable with Trump’s lack of humility,” Meckler said. “And, I think that makes Carson the anti-Trump.”
Trump and Carson do have one thing in common: zero political experience. And, all three grassroots leaders said former Gov. Jeb Bush, who was once leading the field, is just not resonating.
“The base of the conservative Republican party has a great field to choose from,” McIntosh said. “Bush has not been able to excite them.” Meckler went even further, “I’ve never met a single person in 21 states I’ve traveled since the beginning of the year, not one human being that tells me they support Jeb Bush.”
Still, it’s not unusual in presidential politics for there to be early front runners who fizzle; in September 2011 Rick Perry was leading with 30% support. So is this race different?
“I don’t think that Mitt Romney was in the single digits at this point,” Bozell said. “A lot of this establishment crowd is in the single digits, and I don’t know if they can come back.”