Iowa Republicans do more than endure fringe candidates—they embrace them. In Iowa, factional candidates excel and extremists find ground to run. In 1988, Pat Robertson took a strong second in the Iowa caucuses. In 1996, another Pat—Pat Buchanan—came close to toppling Bob Dole. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the contest, and in 2012, Rick Santorum won a slim victory over Mitt Romney. And ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential contest, Iowa Republicans are poised to give their votes to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Iowa Register asked respondents which views were “very attractive,” “mostly attractive,” “mostly unattractive,” and “very unattractive.” It starts off as you would expect. Eighty-five percent of respondents say Carson’s lack of experience is mostly or very attractive; 88 percent say the same for his skill as a neurosurgeon, while 49 percent say it’s unattractive that he has little experience with foreign policy. Routine, so far.
But then it goes off the rails. Two years ago, at the Values Voter Summit, Carson said that the Affordable Care Act—designed to increase health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans—was the “worst thing that has happened in this country since slavery,” which trapped millions of people in brutal hereditary bondage for more than two centuries. American slavery was a disgraceful chapter in our history that still shapes the structure of our society. Obamacare, by contrast, has delivered insurance and health services to 17.6 million people.
What do Iowa Republicans think? Eighty-one percent say this makes him a “mostly” or “very” attractive candidate.
Last month, Carson voiced opposition to a hypothetical Muslim president. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said. This, despite the Constitution’s clear dictate on religious tests—they’re verboten. What do Iowa Republicans think? Seventy-seven percent say this makes him a “mostly” or “very” attractive candidate.