Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are Donald Trump and Ben Carson Closet Democrats?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are Donald Trump and Ben Carson Closet Democrats?

Article excerpt

Donald Trump's record is so liberal some political observers have openly wondered if he is a Democratic plant. Ben Carson, who has praised liberal icon Elizabeth Warren and once backed universal health care, says he used to be a "flaming liberal."

In past campaigns, that could have sunk a candidate.

Not in the 2016 race. Today, the unlikely pair is leading the Republican presidential race both in national polls and in early nominating states like Iowa, surpassing tried-and-true conservatives like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

It's a surprising twist in a race that gives the appearance of upending many of the old rules. The success of Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson - two of the least politically experienced candidates in the race - is an indication that so far anti-establishment fervor has eclipsed traditional benchmarks like public service and ideological purity on social and religious issues.

Trump's liberal past is no secret, yet it hasn't appeared to hurt the billionaire businessman, who has claimed top spots in almost every poll since he declared his candidacy.

In the first GOP debate, Trump was pressed to explain his past support of liberal policies like single payer health care, for which he was ridiculed by rival Rand Paul.

"News flash, the Republican Party's been fighting against a single-payer system for a decade," the senator from Kentucky said. "So I think you're on the wrong side."

In the past, the real estate mogul has backed an assault weapons ban, argued for tax hikes on the wealthy, and registered as a Democrat.

It was enough for rival Jeb Bush, who has arguably suffered the most from Trump's rise, to release an attack ad Tuesday shredding Trump's conservative credentials.

"I probably identify more as a Democrat," Trump says in archive footage in the ad titled "Liberal things that Trump says. …

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