Due to the catastrophizing tendencies of political journalism, the revelation that Ben Carson has been lying about getting into West Point for 25 years has prompted rampant speculation about what happens if his campaign collapses and he drops out. Multiple commentators suggested that Ted Cruz, who, like Carson, is trying to court evangelical voters, has the most to gain:
If Carson-West Point admission hurts him with voters, expect Cruz to see an uptick, at least in Iowa.— Nick Corasaniti (@NYTnickc) November 6, 2015
Wouldn't be surprising to see Ted Cruz be 1 or 2 in Iowa in the next few weeks, if this Carson revelation has any legs w/ GOP voters— Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten) November 6, 2015
Ben Carson West Point story probably good news for Ted Cruz who is also courting Evangelicals?— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) November 6, 2015
But recent polling suggests that Donald Trump, the other political outsider in the race, actually stands to gain the most. A national poll released by Fox News this week asked Republican voters who they'd support with and without Carson in the race. Without Carson, Trump gains 8 percentage points, Marco Rubio gains 5, and Cruz gains 3:
Fox News poll w/o Carson: Trump 34/+8 Rubio 16/+5 Cruz 14/+3 Fiorina 5/+2 Bush & Huck 5/+1 https://t.co/UY5uqXc4Ue pic.twitter.com/RUCOOQE5X2— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) November 6, 2015
Interestingly, the same kind of flow appeared to happen if you took Trump out of contention. In that scenario, Carson gains 10 points, and every other candidate gains 3 points or less.
This is just one poll, of course, and a national one at that; an Iowa poll would probably be more instructive, given that national polls sometimes change dramatically after Iowa results come in. Moreover, it's not clear that Carson's fibs will turn out to be the campaign ender that many pundits are assuming they will be. But Fox's results do suggest that roughly a third of GOP voters are committed to voting for a political outsider, whether that's Trump or Carson. And if Carson does implode, that could unify the outsider vote around Trump and make him tougher to beat.