Juxtapose these two data points if you will. The first is from NBC News’ First Read:

Why Ben Carson isn’t just your new GOP frontrunner; he’s a strong GOP frontrunner

That’s our takeaway from our new NBC/WSJ poll. Not only is Carson leading the Republican horserace with the highest percentage yet in our poll (29%), he also hits 50% when you combine GOP voters’ first and second choices — the only Republican presidential candidate to do that. Then take the fact that he’s raising the most money in the Republican race (his campaign reported raising $10 million in October alone, putting it on pace to raise $30 million for the quarter). And then add in that he gets the most social-media interaction when it comes to Facebook. Anyone who wants to dismiss Carson as Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann is making a big mistake. Sure, it’s more than possible that Carson doesn’t ultimately become the GOP nominee. But NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) makes a convincing case that the 2016 dynamic on the Republican side could have some similarities to 1964, when Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater. “What if the cake is baked?” Hart asks. “This is not a status-quo electorate.”

Here’s the second, a Ben Carson quote from just last year, retold by MoJo’s David Corn, who has been trying to warn people about Carson with no notable effect so far:

Even if all the media tries to shut you down—which they have tried very much to do with me. But they can’t because the good Lord has provided me with mechanisms like my syndicated column and like Fox News. We’d be Cuba if there were no Fox News.

This was part of a longer Carson rap in which he talked, as he often does, about the shadowy forces radically changing America into a fundamentally different society–the conspiracy theory he apparently inculcated from Bircher lunatic Cleon Skousen.

Perhaps out of frustration Corn emphasizes a joking reference to “many Americans” being stupid, as a qualifier of his more typical statement that Americans aren’t stupid enough to fall for the godless manipulation of the totalitarian Alinskyite conspirators (with whom he has identified Hillary Clinton).

But as we approach voting season, with Carson not only leading most polls but exhibiting (among Republicans, anyway) unearthly approval ratios, the increasingly compelling question is whether GOP voters aren’t hearing The Crazy in Carson’s calm, “common-sense” discourse, or are hearing it and agree.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.