Is Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban A Reaction To Ted Cruz Surging In Iowa?

Donald Trump announced his proposal to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States just a few hours after a new poll showed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading the real estate mogul in Iowa, sparking speculation that Trump released the plan as a reaction to a slump in the polls.

A Monmouth University poll released on Monday showed showed Cruz earning 24 percent of Iowa Republicans’ support and Trump earning 19 percent support. Other recent Iowa polls showed Trump maintaining the lead he has enjoyed there for months.

A Wall Street Journal report noted that “Trump’s remarks may well have been designed to remind voters of the core message of his campaign on immigration” after the Monday poll.

And the New York Times wrote that the real estate mogul “has a track record of making surprising and even extreme comments whenever he is overtaken in opinion polls by other Republican candidates – as happened on Monday just hours before he issued his statement about Muslims.”

For example, after Ben Carson rose in the Iowa polls near the end of October, Trump was quick to pounce on the retired neurosurgeon’s descriptions of his violent past. Trump compared Carson’s “pathological temper” to that of a child molester.

In a Tuesday morning interview on “Morning Joe,” Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin asked Trump why he released his plan to ban Muslims on Monday, noting the New York Times’ theory that it was a reaction to the Monmouth University Iowa poll.

“There are some who are accusing, including the New York Times, one of your favorite papers, is saying you chose to make this announcement because one poll showed you behind in Iowa,” Halperin told Trump.

“Give me a break,” Trump responded.

“Speak from your heart. Why did you do this?” Halperin asked.

Trump then dismissed the New York Times, as well as the poll conducted by Monmouth University.

“I call it the failing money-losing New York Times,” he said. “Look, let me tell you something. CNN came out with a poll yesterday that has me clobbering everybody in Iowa. There was another poll that came out, I don’t know the poll, but it came out where I was a little behind Cruz in Iowa.”

“I disagree with their polling methods and data,” Trump continued, referencing the Monmouth University poll. “But CNN, which does do very good polling and highly respected, came out with a poll where, am I correct, Mark, or do you want to correct me? I was absolutely clobbering everybody. Do you agree with that?”

Halperin agreed — a CNN poll conducted by ORC International released on Monday found Trump leading the Republican field in Iowa, with Cruz trailing him by 13 points.

This time around, Trump may be targeting Iowa Republicans with his anti-Muslim proposal in order to secure a boost in the key primary state.

While condemning Trump’s plan to ban Muslims, Republican consultant Eric Fehrnstrom noted that Trump’s proposal could give him a boost with evangelical Protestants, an important subset of caucusgoers in Iowa.

He cited a Pew Research poll that shows Republican voters have more negative views of Muslims than do Democrats. When asked to rate Muslims on a “feeling thermometer” from zero to 100, Republicans gave Muslims a rating of 33. And white Evangelical Protestants gave Muslims the lowest rating of any religious group.

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