The New York Times does a “pair-wise” comparison of each of the top 12 GOP presidential candidates in a hypothetical one-on-one match up before declaring: “Ben Carson isn’t just ahead in Iowa. As of now, it looks as if he can beat any of his Republican presidential challengers in a one-on-one contest.”
While acknowledging that it is a “close call,” the newspaper reports, “Mr. Carson beats each and every other candidate in pairwise races…. The only close call is versus Mr. Trump, with Mr. Carson ahead by 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. But with a sampling error of 0.7 percent, this victory is not statistically significant.”
Head-to-head, excluding all other candidates, Carson beats Sen. Marco Rubio with 67 percent of the votes. He gets 72 percent against former Gov. Jeb Bush.
As for the rest, Carson collects 76 percent against Carly Fiorina, 77 percent versus Sen. Ted Cruz, 82 percent against Gov. Chris Christie, 83 percent vs. Gov. John Kasich, 84 percent vs. Gov. Mike Huckabee, 86 percent vs. Sen. Rand Paul, 91 percent vs. Gov. Bobby Jindal and 92 percent vs. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
The Times explains its complete methodology here.
Here’s how we did it. With the help of Google Consumer Surveys, which samples individuals who respond to surveys to gain access to premium content on selected websites, we surveyed 6,072 people who report themselves as being either very likely to or will definitely vote in a Republican primary. These individuals were given a chance to rank their top six candidates. Our survey was taken Oct. 21-22 and we’ve weighted the Google survey results so that the participants match the age and gender balance seen in the 2012 Republican primary.
With that ranking in hand, we voted for them in all the pairwise matchups — 66 of them. In a contest between someone’s second and fifth choice, we presumed he or she would pick No. 2 over No. 5. Similarly, that voter would pick No. 5 over No. 6 or any unranked candidate.
As the paper points out: ” The idea of looking at all pairwise contests was first proposed by the French political theorist Marquis de Condorcet over 200 years ago. He thought of elections as being a scientific measurement of the population’s preference. A candidate strong enough to beat all comers was the one most likely to reflect the will of the people.”
As it goes on to explain, while first place votes certainly matter, with 12 individuals competing for a single top spot, how voters second and third choices play out are significant, as well. Basically, in the Times analysis, Ben Carson garners enough 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc… place votes to best any other single individual in a one-on-one contest.
A surprise for us is the extent to which Mr. Rubio’s supporters break for Mr. Carson (21.9 percent), more so than to Mr. Bush (16.2 percent), Mrs. Fiorina (13.4 percent) or Mr. Trump (6.2 percent). Indeed, Mr. Carson gets the most second-place votes from all but John Kasich, Lindsey Graham and Bobby Jindal supporters.
Of course, how this holds up after Iowa and New Hampshire, assuming Carson doesn’t win either, remains to be seen.
And finally, as has been the case almost from the start, there’s still just no good news for Jeb Bush to be found.
We expected that Mr. Bush’s supporters would be more establishment types, but their top second choice is Mr. Carson with 17.8 percent, while Mr. Rubio comes in next with 14.4 percent. We thought that Mr. Trump would be the last candidate that Mr. Bush supporters would select, but it turns out that almost as many (11 percent) choose Mr. Trump as a second choice as choose Mr. Rubio.
Some people have assumed that Mr. Trump is no one’s second choice. That’s not true. He’s the top second choice of Mr. Carson’s supporters, and Mr. Trump follows Mr. Carson with supporters of Rand Paul (15 percent), Mike Huckabee (14 percent) and Mr. Jindal (12 percent). He even gets over 15 percent of second-choice votes from Ted Cruz. You can find the full matrix here.
Other than Mr. Carson’s strength, we can see the much stronger position of Mr. Rubio compared with Mr. Bush. Mr. Rubio is only ahead by 10.7 percent to 8 percent in first-choice voters, but he beats Mr. Bush, 60.2 to 39.8, in their pairwise contest.
So the GOP’s senior establishment guy even loses out to the junior establishment guy.