So how has America reacted to Donald Trump’s proposal to stop all Muslim immigration? Has the Donald gone too far? Not at all, according to the Wall Street Journal and NBC News: Trump has overtaken former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has fallen back into fourth place on 11 per cent. Trump remains the frontrunner, now on 27 per cent.
So who can trump Trump? The best bet, it seems now, is Ted Cruz, the Senator for Texas. He has moved up from 10 per cent in October to 22 per cent — it's also the first time he's the second most popular candidate. Plus, another poll from Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register says that in the key primary state of Iowa, he is the most popular candidate with a ten-point lead over Trump.
With under two months to go until voting begins, there remains a lot of volatility in this race — it remains depressingly unpredictable. Trump refuses to go away, and is doing well from his anti-establishment credentials. But there is no doubting that Cruz is gaining momentum and emerging as the favourite candidate of the party's far-right. He is ready to pick up Trump's supporters if/when he falls:
Each time The Donald comes out with something outrageous — 'respected columnist Katie Hopkins' for example — we Brits think ‘surely the Republicans will come to their senses now'. But there is no sign of that yet. With Jeb Bush all but disappearing out of the race, the only other viable candidate at this stage is Marco Rubio, who came third in the WSJ's latest survey.
Cruz remains an unknown quantity outside the States, so what is he like? When I covered last year's mid-term elections for the Washington Post, I saw Cruz on the road several times and there is no doubting that he is an impressive speaker who has a strong appeal to 'values voters', i.e. those who base voting decisions on what they believe, usually religion. At each stop, Cruz gave the same patter about ‘it’s great to be out of Washington’, promising to repeal Obamacare, as well as talking up the idea of a wall across the southern border. The audiences naturally lapped this up.
In recent presidential elections, some Republicans told me they felt the party had compromised too much with their choice of 'moderate' candidates in recent presidential elections — John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. If the party plumps for Cruz, no one could accuse them of compromise.