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  • The retired neurosurgeon is surging in the polls, but faces a huge hurdle in overcoming Trump, the runaway leader of a pack of 2016 presidenital candidates looking to tap into the anti-establishment fervor that is energizing the Republican base.
  • In an interview, The Hill asked Carson if he believes he can convince those currently backing the celebrity businessman to give him a look. 
  • “I believe the American people are smart enough to figure out what’s real, what’s not real, and what kind of temperament and intellectual endeavors are necessary to be president,” Carson said.

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  • Mr. Carson has worked hard to tame his habit of making highly provocative statements, often on homosexuality, a move that advisers said had saved his campaign after it nearly derailed amid negative early headlines. They predicted that Mr. Trump’s own tendency toward such statements, whether directed at illegal immigrants or in personal attacks on Twitter, could undermine his headline-grabbing run.

    “We’ve been there and realize no matter how much the base will love you for it, people will not think it’s presidential,” said Armstrong Williams, a close adviser to Mr. Carson.

  • Perhaps most surprising is that Mr. Carson’s appeal in Iowa is stronger than that of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has anti-establishment credibility and recently drew more than 2,000 evangelicals to a rally in Des Moines.

    A spokesman for Mr. Cruz, Rick Tyler, said Mr. Carson would have “to withstand the scrutiny of a front-runner candidate” and “convince people he’s qualified to be president on foreign policy, economic policy and religious freedom policy.”

  • "The most important number right now is his net favorability, which is about popularity and personality. Our guy is 71 and Trump is at 26. That is the highest we have seen since (President Barack) Obama," said Armstrong Williams, Carson's business manager. "The key for us to be able to maintain such high ratings through the ideas portion of the primary."

  • "I like Ben Carson very much," Trump said last week in South Carolina. "He's really a fine man. He's a friend of mine. He's doing well also."

  • Aides said that Carson also has another advantage over the rest of the field because of his connection to African-Americans, who have long celebrated his medical achievements. They argue that he could get 13% of the black vote in the general election.

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  • Now that Carson presents a real threat to Trump, it will be interesting to see what happens when Trump inevitably attacks him. So far, Trump has not only gotten away with attacking sacred cows like an opponent’s wife, a war hero, and a Fox News superstar, those controversies have only made him stronger. Carson, though, is a different case, because he’s a sacred cow of a different color. First thrust into political prominence by sticking it to President Obama at a prayer breakfast, Dr. Carson has become a symbol of resistance to the Obama presidency, as well as a convenient talisman against accusations that such resistance is rooted in race.
  • The Trump-Carson dynamic will test the Beltway premise that Donald Trump and fellow non-politician candidates Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are tapping into some general “anger at Washington,” rather than an intoxicating cocktail of white male resentment. If the former is true, then attacking Carson should measurably damage Trump, and if the latter is true, it will send Trump into higher orbit, and Carson to the trash heap. Some of that will depend, of course, on how Trump attacks Carson.


  • “Ben Carson is a wonderful guy,” Trump can say, “and it’s a shame, but thanks to President Obama, there won’t be another black president for generations.”


    There are also ample substantive grounds on which Trump can attack Carson without ever having to get to his left on the social issues that make Carson so appealing to evangelicals. Like the many liberals who are afraid to attack Ben Carson, Trump can begin by complimenting Carson’s “inspirational” story and medical brilliance, but then pivot to his lack of leadership experience. “He’s a wonderful guy, but we’re not fixing brains here, we’re getting killed by China. We’re not separating Siamese twins, we’re separating Mexico from Texas with a beautiful wall!”

  • The candidate is not the most eloquent in the Republican field, nor does he have the most experience or money. But in a campaign that has so far revolved around Donald Trump, Ben Carson brings to the table much of what Trump is – a Washington outsider, not a politician, authentic and genuine -- without the bombast and spectacle. 


  • Instead, he embodies a compelling personal story -- from troubled youngster with a horrible temper to prominent neurosurgeon who became the youngest physician to ever head a major division at Johns Hopkins and the first to successfully separate Siamese twins joined at the head. And while the candidate isn’t the most charismatic on the stump, he often hits a rhythm while engaging with voters’ questions. 

  • “I think that people are just really attracted to him because he’s authentic. He plants his feet and he tells the truth,” Press Secretary Deana Bass told ABC News. “It doesn’t matter if he’s on the Southside of Chicago, in the middle of Iowa with farmers. It doesn’t matter where he is: he tells the same truth everywhere.”

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  • Don’t forget Ben Carson.


    The retired pediatric neurosurgeon isn’t generating the headlines or drawing the crowds of Donald Trump, but his numbers in some surveys suggest the appetite for his presidential candidacy might be just as great, if not greater.

  • Consider a recent survey by TargetPoint Consulting, a top Republican polling and data-research firm. Roughly two-thirds of likely Republican primary voters polled said they would consider backing Mr. Carson, the highest level of support for any candidate in the field. Just 16% said they wouldn’t, the lowest such tally. Those results include voters who didn’t know who Mr. Carson is.


  • Holding signs that said simply, “HEAL,” hundreds of Carson faithful turned out to see the man they have admired for years and are now hoping will lead the country.

  • When Trump’s name came up during the dinner, which featured speeches from Carson, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Senator Ted Cruz, heads shook sideways. Trump’s an “‘I’ man. ‘I.I.I,’” said Shirley Ellison. “Remember, ‘sin’ has a big ‘I’ in the middle of it. I like that Dr. Carson is not stuck on himself. He’s stuck on helping people.”


  • Rela Biagiotti and her husband Tim wore “Carson” stickers, along with two for Cruz and Walker. Did they wish Trump was there too? “Not really,” they both said with a shrug. “I personally just don’t like his demeanor,” said Rela. “Let’s soften yourself down a little.”


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  • For all his appeal, Carson lacks polish. His language is a bit too blunt; his sentences perambulate. This works in front of already-sympathetic listeners, but it will be a vulnerability as the primary field narrows, pitting Carson against tougher questioners and feistier opponents. And it would be self-immolating in a general-election campaign, when hostile media will be searching for every off-pitch statement and a candidate must capture voters who, though they disagree with President Obama, do not think him a proto-Mussolini.


  • Two years later, Carson seems to some tailor-made for the moment. Among a certain part of the Republican electorate the desire for someone who will stand up to political status quo has grown desperate (Donald Trump is the latest beneficiary of this desire, though his cohort of supporters is not identical with Carson’s). Government has become alarmingly invasive, the bureaucracy notoriously partisan, a whole bevy of agencies hideously corrupt; America’s reputation and influence abroad have diminished, allowing for the rise of a host of malevolent forces; cultural progressivism, with the full backing of the Democratic party, has abandoned compromise for raw force, and proved that it will cheerfully extirpate First Amendment rights to secure the concocted rights of sexual liberation; race relations have degraded. Christian conservatives, especially, see a federal government that has demanded to evaluate prayers and Facebook posts, an administration that makes theological excuses for Islamic terrorism, a secular left-wing culture that would crush an Indiana pizza shop on the basis of a hypothetical question, and media keen to exploit (or manufacture) racial divisions. All of this has been promoted, presided over, or prodded on by Barack Obama, who promised to “heal” and to “unite.” Carson seems the antithesis of this president. Serene, plain-spoken, expressly Christian — in a time of political corruption, he is a citizen-servant, and in a time of moral degradation, a spiritual leader.


  • But if the Outsider is one type in American politics, the Messiah is another. And to a messianic politics, conservatives — especially Christian conservatives, inclined to see themselves and their God as persecuted or cast into exile — are particularly susceptible.

  • While it can be foolish to predict what happens to the polls in the short run, there’s a pretty obvious case to be made that Carson is on an upswing as part of a “discovery, scrutiny and decline” polling cycle of the sort that Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain (among others) experienced in 2011. If Carson’s doing this well with so little media attention, imagine what happens when he gets some. Polls will trigger more coverage of Carson’s campaign, which will in turn improve his standing in the polls, which will produce yet more coverage, and so forth.


    Carson also has outstanding favorability ratings among Republicans, which could give him more room to grow. And it’s not as though he’s a dull story to cover. While Carson is more mild-mannered than Trump — and possibly a lot smarter — he, like Trump, has a history of stoking controversy through impolitic statements.


    The question is what happens to Trump’s numbers when Carson surges. (Or if Carson doesn’t, when another candidate like Ted Cruz inevitably does some weeks or months from now.) If Trump is more like the Gingriches and Cains of the world, his support may erode pretty quickly once there’s another GOP “flavor of the month” who appeals to voters seeking an outsider to mainstream politics. An alternative possibility, however, is that Trump is more like a Pat Buchanan or Ron Paul — a factional candidate who is relatively immune from shifts of opinion elsewhere in the Republican field, but also has a low ceiling on his support. Either way, Trump is not very likely to win the Republican nomination — and neither is Carson — but we’ll learn something about the nature of his support.

  • “I call it the power of nice,” says Rob Taylor, an Iowa state representative co-chairing Carson’s Hawkeye State campaign. “When you compare the two [Trump and Carson], it’s kind of a yin and yang. Carson’s approach is kind, gentle, smart and effective, and what he’s practicing right now, we haven’t seen in a long time in politics.”


  • Taylor suggests interest in Carson is more about authenticity, especially in Iowa, and that voters sense that Carson is genuine. “People are frustrated by politicians promising things to their constituents, and once they get elected, they don’t follow through,” Taylor says. “I think the appeal with Dr. Carson is he says what he does and does what he says.”


  • “It’s not that they are just craving a non-politician or outsider … they are craving someone who is just not there for the political gain or themselves, who says it’s not about me--it’s about fixing a problem,” Rhodes says.


    Part of Carson’s pitch as a non-politician is that he has done what no candidate in the field is capable of doing: fixing real problems that had never been solved before.

  • part of Carson's appeal can be explained by his outsider status. Remember, the Des Moines Register poll found that 75% of Republican Iowa caucus-goers said they were unsatisfied or mad as hell at their own party in Congress. But what sets Carson apart from the other GOP outsiders -- Trump and Carly Fiorina, who is in third in that Monmouth poll -- is his explicit Christian faith. Here was Carson talking about taxes at last month's Cleveland debate: "What I agree with is that we need a significantly changed taxation system. And the one that I've advocated is based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy," Carson explained. "And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn't matter how much you make. If you've had a bumper crop, you don't owe me triple tithes. And if you've had no crops at all, you don't owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that. And that's why I've advocated a proportional tax system."
  • And if Donald Trump somehow stumbles in the months ahead, Carson could benefit. As one Iowa voter told NBC's Vaughn Hillyard, per The Lid: "I think Trump has done a good thing by stirring everybody up and making the average American believe that there are other people who have the ability to be in power, thinking the same way we are. But he doesn't necessarily have the finesse… I like [Carson's] demeanor. I think Trump is acting like a spoiled child, and he needs to stop that."



  • Trump is winning his fight with Megyn Kelly. When we last polled her in December of 2013 her favorability with Republicans nationally was 44/9. Her favorability is in a similar place now at 42% but her negatives have shot up to 20%, largely because she's at 20/43 with Trump's supporters.  Meanwhile Trump's popularity with GOP voters has just continued to grow. Last month before the debate his favorability with them was 48/39, now it's improved to 56/30. Fox News as a whole isn't suffering for the feud though- in February we found 66% of Republicans said they trusted the network, and now we find 66% say they have a favorable opinion of it.


  • “I bet you’re gonna be like ‘oh, it didn’t work because I didn’t tape the tube right or something like that,'” she texted him “You always seem to have an excuse.”

    When Roy decided to use a generator instead, Carter was impatient.

    “Do you have the generator?” she asked him.

    “Not yet LOL,” he replied.

    “WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?” she wrote.

    Eventually, Roy did find a generator — his father’s — but it was broken. Carter told him to take it to Sears for repairs.

  • The day of Roy’s death — July 12, 2014 — he and Carter exchanged texts in the early morning hours.

    “You can’t think about it. You just have to do it,” Carter said, telling him she didn’t understand why he was hesitating.

    “I’m gonna eventually,” he replied. “I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up.”

  • While he was in the truck with the pump running, he was on the phone texting and talking with Carter, she told her friend.

    “Like, honestly I could have stopped it,” Carter texted Samantha months later. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car” because the carbon monoxide was working, she said. She added that she “told him to get back in.”

  • "Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on," 18-year-old Michelle Carter texted boyfriend Conrad Roy III in reference to him dying by suicide.


    The district attorney's office argues that in the immediate days after Roy's death, Carter "sought sympathy and attention" when she created a Facebook event to hold a baseball tournament fundraiser in Roy's honor.


    "I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible," the event description read. When a friend of Roy's mentioned the event on his Facebook page, Carter allegedly contacted him and asked: "You're not taking credit for my idea though, right?" 

  • "I think your parents know you're in a really bad place. I'm not saying they want you to do it, but honestly, I feel like they can accept it," Carter said in a text message to Roy, according to the indictment.


  • "Like, I honestly could have stopped it," Carter said later in a text message to a friend (according to the indictment). "I was the one on the phone with him, and he got out of the car because (the carbon monoxide) was working and he got scared. I (expletive) told him to get back in."


  • "I told him to get back in because I knew he would do it all over again the next day, and I couldn't have him live that way -- the way he was living anymore. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't let him. Therapy didn't help him and I wanted him to go to McLeans with me when I went but he would go in the other department for his issues, but he didn't want to go because he said nothing they would do or say would help him or change the way he feels. So I like, started giving up because nothing I did was helping -- and but I should have tried harder. Like, I should have did more. It's all my fault because I could have stopped him but I (expletive) didn't. All I had to say was I love you and don't do this one more time, and he'd still be here."


  • “We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like,” McConnell said. “I would remind all of your viewers: The way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it. The president has made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood.”


    And McConnell said that in order to really make the changes he envisions on regulations, Republicans need a nominee at the top of the ticket who can win purple states — rattling off a list of places where he also needs Republicans to win Senate contests to continue as majority leader in 2017.


    “Whoever our nominee is is going to have to appeal in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Nevada — those states that tend to go back and forth,” McConnell said. “Looking at the polling data in those key states, I think people are ready to go in a different direction. We just have to nominate somebody that they find appealing.”

  •  Why is that? Isn’t it obvious? For the media to play up this shutdown fight, as is their nature, they first have to explain what the controversy is all about. And that is the last thing they want to do. An explanation means giving pro-lifers a huge platform to message on Planned Parenthood. “Republicans consider shutting down government for some reason we have no idea why, maybe see paragraph 12 for a possible explanation” is the tone that most coverage of this issue has had thus far. In an actual shutdown scenario, that would have to change. Heaven forbid that Pope Francis mention it in a sentence that also talks about gays.
  • If Republicans put a continuing resolution that defunds Planned Parenthood on the floor for three weeks, forcing the Democrats to rail in opposition and for the media to cover this topic day after day, it would be a far better approach than doing nothing, saying nothing, then cutting a deal at the end of the month, where Mitch McConnell comes out to the microphones and says with a smile that the Senate is open for business.

  • Romney’s campaigns, of course, made plenty of strategic blunders. But the governor’s supporters say he is simply more skilled, in both business and politics, than any of the current GOP contenders and that subsequent events demonstrated the basic truth of much of what he said on the trail in 2012. Romney predicted, for example, that Vladimir Putin was an emerging threat and that radical Islam was on the ascent — claims that President Obama roundly mocked at the time.


  • It’s that steady hand that many say would bring some calm to the madness that overtook the race when Trump entered the field in June. “Mitt’s proven to be right on the critical issues and I kind of feel like Trump has turned this whole thing into a circus,” says Van Slooten.


  • DeVore even predicts that the Republican establishment will join his call for Romney to enter the race. “The Republican establishment, when they see this thing keep going the way it’s going, they’re going to go crazy,” he says. “They’re going to be knocking on the door and saying ‘Mitt, where are you? We need you.’ They’re going to have to drag him out.”

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  • Headlines blared this weekend that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he favors building a giant wall along the northern border, but his camp claims he never said this.


    "Despite the attempts of some to put words in his mouth, Gov. Walker wasn't advocating for a wall along our northern border," campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Washington Examiner's media desk on Monday.

  • Only a small handful of newsrooms, including the Washington Post, which corrected its original headline suggesting Walker wanted a wall, broke with the pack to note that the governor was talking about overall security concerns on the northern border.


    "Chuck asked about it and Gov. Walker said based on what he's hearing from people there are security concerns that need to be addressed," his campaign told the Examiner.

  • His problems continued on Sunday. Walker was grilled on birthright citizenship and gay marriage flip-flops, his low home-state polling and his state’s economic record, that latter suggesting a line of attack for other GOP governors in the race. Walker pleaded that “if you look at Minnesota, it’s had a lower unemployment rate for 25 years, or something like that, in the last two, two and a half decades. So that’s not an apples to apples comparison.” Really, Wisconsin can’t be as good as Minnesota? Then he argued that “we’re heavily dependent on manufacturing. That’s been something that’s been slow, not just there, but across the country.” One can imagine other governors licking their chops. Even worse, he was pushed into saying a wall on the Canadian border is worth considering. That’s plain goofy since immigrants are not exactly streaming in from Canada.

    Meanwhile, Christie was loose and funny on Fox News Sunday. (At one point he declared, “Let’s do a lightning round baby, let’s go.”) Jabbing at Hillary Clinton for telling Fox’s Ed Henry he was “entitled” to only one question at a recent press availability, Christie joked, “Thank you very much, your highness. We appreciate it. This is not royalty in the United States. You have to battle, fight, and answer questions by the American people to become president of the United States. It’s not a familial ascendancy.” On her comparing pro-lifers to terrorists, Christie punched back. “Well there’s a uniter, isn’t. Comparing Republicans to terrorist groups. There’s a real uniter. That’s the woman you want sitting in the Oval Office to bring our country back together. That’s a disgrace and she’s a disgrace.”

  • Christie, like other contenders, is overshadowed for the moment by Donald Trump. Unlike Walker, however, he has stuck to his guns on issues and performed ably in the debate. Walker seems in over his head.
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