In Iowa, Trump Touts Poll Numbers With Grain of Salt

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BURLINGTON, Iowa — Donald Trump on Wednesday night once again bragged about his poll numbers.

"Today is the 100th day that we’ve been No. 1 in every single poll," he told the audience of 2,500 at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium here in Iowa.

But like many of his sweeping claims, this one was not entirely true — especially when you count the smaller polls that Trump frequently likes to tout at his rallies.

Two weeks ago, Investors Business Daily released numbers that had Ben Carson on top nationally, and Wednesday in Iowa, Quinnipiac found the same — with Trump falling behind the neurosurgeon 28 percent to 20 percent in a poll of likely caucus-goers.

Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, on Oct. 21 in Burlington, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / AP

It's a sign, perhaps, some slippage is taking root.

Carson’s new lead in the first-to-vote state is aided by a strong showing with evangelicals and women.

On the street in downtown Des Moines, mother Julie Goldsmith described herself as an undecided voter, but said she would happily pick Ben Carson over Donald Trump.

“I really don’t want to see Trump in office, and Carson seems like a good alternative,” she told NBC News, adding, “Trump doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for women.”

Jan Pederson, on the other hand, would vote for Trump if he became the nominee, but said that Carson was her top pick.

“Trump has burned many bridges with his remarks on women,” she said, “I see a total respect for women from Ben Carson.”

Bob Vander Plaats is the president of The Family Leader, and influential conservative Christian organization in Iowa. The group hasn’t endorsed any candidate yet, but Vander Plaats believes, despite their drastically different demeanors, the same evangelical voter can be drawn to both candidates.

“Both of them are blowing up the entire system. Trump is doing it in the flamboyant reality-TV-show manner and Dr. Ben Carson just wants to have a conversation with the American people,” Vander Plaats explained. “Evangelicals are just like all the other Americans; they are tired of a broken system in Washington, D.C.”

The retired neurosurgeon, who has suspended his campaign to promote his latest book, hasn’t been to Iowa for more than 24 hours in two months. But while Carson does enjoy a strong Iowa ground-game thanks to his Super PAC, there was already a deep familiarity with the candidate.

His book, "Gifted Hands," has been a fixture on home-school curricula since 1996. According to the Iowa Department of Education, the Hawkeye State has at least 10,000 home-schooled students.

Meanwhile, Trump has been to Iowa a number of times in the last two months touting his Christianity, even telling the Burlington crowd on Wednesday night, "The last time I actually walked on stage with a Bible and people liked me better."

And although he didn’t directly comment on Carson’s new lead, he did re-tweet a follower who suggested Iowans might have mental issues. "Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?" @mygreenhippo wrote. Trump then deleted the retweet a few hours later, blaming his “young intern" for the gaffe.

Of course, there's only one major poll that shows Trump slipping. The latest NBC News/WSJ poll has Trump enjoying his highest rating yet. Still, it could be the start of a trend. Even so, historically speaking, Republican candidates who have won conservative Iowa have not also won moderate New Hampshire.