But what about the polls? And in both the Huffington Post aggregate of 212 polls from 32 pollsters (updated yesterday) and in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Donald Trump is still leading the pack nationally, with 32 and 24.3 percent, respectively. (That may even be a new high on HufPo.)
So what gives? Well, the key to that last paragraph is the word "nationally." And national polls don't really mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
Let's look at polls from the first two states that will actually cast ballots, Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, on HufPo (updated five days ago), Ben Carson is in first place:
Ben Carson, 27.5 percent
Donald Trump, 21.1
Ted Cruz, 10.5
Marco Rubio, 10.2
Jeb Bush, 5.8
On RCP, Trump holds a narrow lead over Carson:
Trump, 24 percent
In New Hampshire, Trump has a pretty comfortable lead on HufPo (updated three days ago):
Trump, 27.3 percent
John Kasich, 7.3
Carly Fiorina, 6.6
Chris Christie, 4.2
And, finally, RCP:
Trump, 24.3 percent
What's the bottom line here? Well, first of all, it's still early; the Iowa caucuses aren't until February 1, ten weeks from next Monday. That's plenty of time for "vanity candidates" like Trump and Carson to self-destruct. But we've been saying that for several months now, haven't we? And, despite all sorts of outrageous statements from both, they continue not to self-destruct.
So either the polls are right or the betting markets are. While I would always go with the latter (because they've been better predictors in the past), more traditional candidates like Rubio have to turn their numbers on Paddy Power into actual votes. And if by some crazy stretch of the imagination -- let's say Carson wins Iowa and Trump wins New Hampshire -- the more traditional candidates don't actually win anything, then who cares what the betting markets say?
I guess the real bottom line here is that the smart money is betting that Carson and Trump will fade and the party establishment will rally around Rubio. We'll see.