One of the more interesting headlines that was hidden amongst the unnecessary CPAC coverage was the continued political emergence of neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.
Carson, 61, announced he would retire as a pediatric neurosurgeon and of course speculation over his political future. Carson would later finish 7th in the CPAC Straw Poll with 4% of the vote.
But being entered in the Straw Poll, and fairing pretty well considering how new his name is, concludes a one-month political launch that catapulted Carson into the national dialogue of future Presidential candidates.
It all started in early February when Carson made a speech attacking political correctness (as well as the national debt and health care) at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Most noteworthy about the speech was that Carson said everything directly in front of President Obama who was seated to Carson’s right. Whether the National Prayer Breakfast was the appropriate place to make a political speech (it isn’t) or not is absolutely irrelevant as Carson made his point.
A point so loud, mind you, that he earned praise from Rush Limbaugh, Neil Cavuto and the Wall Street Journal. To put it frankly, Carson went from a well-known pediatric neurosurgeon (a made-for-TV movie was made about his life starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.) to a conservative darling in about fifteen minutes.
Of course though, the national speculation when it comes to Republican candidates has always hovered between typical and head-scratching. The weakness of the last two Republican primaries has been noted and 2016 is the first cycle since 2000 in which conservatives actually seem excited about their candidates. Still, the media has hyped average-to-far below average candidates such as Donald Trump, Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin as national contenders.
The appeal of Ben Carson though, to be fair, is a bit different than other Republican candidates before him. Carson is brilliant, his work in neurosurgery has been prodigious and his personal story is just as captivating. He is African-American as well and given the Republican Party’s struggles with minorities, you can understand why there is plenty of hype around the doctor.
Yet a political heavyweight? What the pundits of the world typically forget is that it takes more than a couple well-timed speeches to make a candidate.
Let’s look at recently hyped, media drafted candidates such as Wesley Clark and Fred Thompson. Both were considered potential “white knights” to come in and coast to victory in a contested primary. But there is more to campaigning than showing up and Clark’s inability to speak well on the stump and Thompson’s lackadaisical approach both cost them dearly.
What’s going to happen when Carson gets blasted as an inexperienced politician by someone such as Jeb Bush? What about his pro-gun control ideals? How will he handle Rick Santorum and Rand Paul calling him out on that? Will he change his mind?
How about fundraising? If he can’t get a SuperPAC on his side or tap into the fundraising base, then his candidacy will suffer. Carson is going to be watched at all times, at every stump speech and one slip-up could cost him dearly.
That’s not to say he isn’t capable but those potential stories are always hidden when a candidate gets hyped up.
Is this more of a flavor of the week type deal with Carson or are we on the verge of a national candidate with a shot at winning the Presidency? I’d lean to the former before the latter as running for President is not as easy as someone think. Carson might be retiring from neurosurgery but campaigning requires a different commitment.
I honor Ben Carson for his work in medicine, truly I do, but he might be either too sane for the Republican Party or too amateur.