Sur­geon out­paces US pres­i­den­tial ri­vals

Lesotho Times - - International -

WASHINGTON — Ben Car­son, a renowned neu­ro­sur­geon with no ex­pe­ri­ence in the cut­throat world of Washington pol­i­tics, is rid­ing a sur­pris­ing wave of sup­port among con­ser­va­tives that has placed him near the top of con­tenders for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 2016.

The soft-spo­ken 63-year-old Mr Car­son, an African-amer­i­can who only of­fi­cially be­came a Repub­li­can last year, has found an open­ing in the wide-open race in which 13 can­di­dates are run­ning for the White House. His re­sume of hav­ing per­formed 15 000 sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions is the most un­usual of any­one in the field.

In polls, Mr Car­son regularly out­per­forms most of his fel­low can­di­dates, who of­ten have much big­ger media pro­files, much more po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and in many cases have track records as gover­nors or sen­a­tors. While the spotlight has been on op­po­nents like for­mer Florida gover­nor Jeb Bush and Florida Sen­a­tor Marco Ru­bio, Mr Car­son has been qui­etly build­ing a grass­roots fol­low­ing.

Mr Car­son won the straw poll at the Western Con­ser­va­tive Sum­mit in Den­ver this week­end for the sec­ond year in a row.

Mr Car­son’s rise ap­pears to be a re­flec­tion of deep dis­sat­is­fac­tion with tra­di­tional politi­cians in the Repub­li­can field, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views with sup­port­ers and con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists. Con­ser­va­tives feel their elected lead­ers in Washington have been un­able to come up with poli­cies to grow the econ­omy, re­duce debt and cut the size of gov­ern­ment.

Mr Car­son’s sur­pris­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the polls has trans­lated into a high num­ber of in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions.

Cam­paign of­fi­cials say Mr Car­son is re­ceiv­ing a surge in small-dol­lar fi­nan­cial do­na­tions, up to 185 000 so far and on track for 200 000 by the end of the month, with an av­er­age of $52 (M636) apiece.

Cam­paign fi­nance ex­pert Bren­dan Glavin said 185 000 was a big num­ber if all were unique donors. In 2011, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign said it had 493 697 unique donors.

Much of Mr Car­son’s ap­peal cen­tres on his lack of con­nec­tion to Washington and his off-the-cuff speak­ing style: He es­chews pre­pared speeches in favour of thoughts he jots down on in­dex cards to which he may or may not re­fer.

His sup­port­ers are not trou­bled by his lack of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and in­deed welcome the fact that he is new to the public stage. His sup­port is par­tic­u­larly strong among Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives, who like the fact that his half-dozen books and speeches are in­fused with dis­cus­sions about his faith.

Mr Car­son told a crowd in Sioux Cen­tre, Iowa, last week that he didn’t re­ally want to run for pres­i­dent, but there were so many peo­ple clam­our­ing for him to get into the race that he felt the call.

“I started pray­ing about it, ask­ing God for guid­ance, and I fi­nally con­cluded that ‘Lord, as long as you open the doors I’ll walk through them. And if you shut the doors, I’ll gladly sit down.’ Well, he has con­tin­u­ally opened the doors,” Mr Car­son said.

Pop­u­lar choice A Reuters/ip­sos poll last week showed that Mr Car­son was the third most pop­u­lar choice among Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers (11 per­cent). Only for­mer Florida Gover­nor Jeb Bush (17 per­cent) and Wis­con­sin Gover­nor Scott Walker (15 per­cent) placed ahead of him.

A WSJ/NBC News poll placed him fourth in the Repub­li­can race, while a poll by the con­serva- tive group Cit­i­zens United of the group’s mem­bers found Mr Car­son in first place with 18 per­cent among 4,300 re­spon­dents.

If Mr Car­son rises fur­ther in the polls, chances are his po­si­tions on the is­sues will get more scru­tiny.

In Iowa, he called for pres­i­dents to have only one six-year term in­stead of two four-year terms, which can only be done through the ex­tremely dif­fi­cult task of amend­ing the US Con­sti­tu­tion.

He has also said pris­ons prove that be­ing gay is a choice, a com­ment he apol­o­gised for, and has re­ferred to illegal im­mi­grants hav­ing “an­chor ba­bies” in the United States to in­crease their odds of stay­ing in the coun­try.

Mr Car­son is try­ing to pull off the vir­tu­ally un­think­able: To be­come the first non-politi­cian to be elected pres­i­dent since World War Two hero Gen­eral Dwight Eisen­hower in 1952. Repub­li­can strate­gists say, how­ever, he is ex­tremely un­likely to se­cure his party’s nom­i­na­tion.

“He has to show he can raise money,” said Dave Bossie, pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens United. “But at the end of the day he’s got to trans­late grass­roots sup­port across the coun­try into votes and that’s a tough thing to do.”

Mr Car­son’s speeches on the cam­paign trail in­clude the stan­dard con­ser­va­tive calls for get­ting the gov­ern­ment off the backs of the peo­ple with­out a whole lot of specifics.

But there’s also an el­e­ment of faith-healer op­ti­mism based on his life, from re­bel­lious Detroit street youth who tried to stab a friend at age 14, to ac­com­plished physi­cian who in 1987 led a sur­gi­cal team that suc­cess­fully sep­a­rated con­joined twins.

Mr Car­son broke through on the na­tional stage when he up­braided Mr Obama over his sig­na­ture healthcare law at a Na­tional Prayer Break­fast in 2013 that the pres­i­dent at­tended.

Anx­ious mo­ments His staff is never quite sure what Mr Car­son is go­ing to say pub­licly since he does not speak from a text, a stark dif­fer­ence from to­day’s care­fully scripted can­di­dates.

“It makes for some anx­ious mo­ments for his staff, I can prom­ise you that,” said Mr Car­son com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Doug Watts. “But that’s his style.”

While it would be easy to write off Mr Car­son as sim­ply en­joy­ing a brief shin­ing mo­ment, his rise is not based on a sud­den burst of pub­lic­ity from, for ex­am­ple, a good de­bate per­for­mance on na­tional tele­vi­sion.

In­stead, Mr Car­son is rid­ing high based on what has been a far smaller stage that in­cludes sup­port from peo­ple who have seen him on ca­ble TV, watched the 2009 movie “Gifted Hands” about his life or read one of his books.

In­ter­views with more than a dozen Mr Car­son sup­port­ers show that it is his unique back­ground that is help­ing him get trac­tion in the race for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

All of them said it does not mat­ter to them that he has no ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment, a mea­sure of how much dis­sat­is­fac­tion there is with politi­cians in Washington.

“I think it would be a plus,” said Ken­neth Hunter (59) of Ge­or­gia. “I think we have too many ca­reer politi­cians in the race.”

Christi Tay­lor, an in­ter­nal medicine doc­tor from West Des Moines, Iowa, said she first felt the pull of Mr Car­son when she saw him speak more than a year ago at a med­i­cal con­fer­ence in Texas.

She and her hus­band are now cochairs of the Mr Car­son cam­paign in Iowa.

“It’s truly what I would call a groundswell,” she said of the pop­u­lar sup­port for Mr Car­son. “The most en­cour­ag­ing thing to me is that we have peo­ple who haven’t been in­volved in pol­i­tics and some who haven’t voted in years be­cause they have be­come frus­trated and felt their voices haven’t been heard.” — Reuters

REPUB­LI­CAN Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son speaks dur­ing a cam­paign event in Den­ver, Colorado on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.