With the dust just beginning to settle from the 2014 midterm elections, conservative darling Ben Carson is already looking toward 2016. The neurosurgeon-turned-pundit has declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency, and the race for the Oval Office has officially kicked off.
Carson has long been expected to run for the presidency, as the neurosurgeon and conservative political star has spent the last long while talking about the sort of broad ideas that typify presidential runs. ABC News reports that Carson will introduce himself to the American electorate this weekend in the form of a nearly 40-minute-long ad entitled “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America.”
The video will be aimed at increasing Carson’s visibility. A relative political neophyte, Carson lacks the name recognition of many of his presumptive rivals in the quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
Carson’s introductory ad will air in 22 states and in Washington, D.C. It will include information on Carson’s life and family, with a heavy focus on Carson’s journey from childhood poverty in Detroit to his role as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.
Carson will have a tough road ahead of him, even with the actual primary season still more than a year away. Carson will likely spend the next several months building the campaign infrastructure necessary to make a sustained run at the nomination for the highest office in the land. The introductory video will be just the first stage in that effort, with the hard work of cementing alliances, corralling donors, and hammering out a platform still to come.
Carson will likely draw on his experience as a physician as a major differentiator in the campaign, as he has already spent some time railing against President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. As an alternative, Carson proposes a system of private health care savings plans and a flat tax, though these positions will no doubt need fleshing out in order to gain traction in a national race.
There is also the question of just how impactful Carson’s anti-Obamacare stance will be in early 2016, when the Republican primaries kick off. Assuming Republican efforts to repeal the law before then prove unsuccessful, Obamacare will have been in effect for several years by that point and the ACA’s provisions are increasingly popular among voters, even if the name “Obamacare” itself is not.
Obamacare was an important issue among the voters that went to the polls for the midterm election, with 47 percent of respondents to an AP exit poll saying that the health care law went too far. Fully 48 percent, though, said that the law was just right or didn’t go far enough, signaling that the law has solid support, even in the highly partisan midterm electorate.
When it comes to the general electorate, the law is more popular and Carson will likely have a difficult time convincing voters that his proposed retooling of the healthcare economy is the right way to go.
Outside of healthcare, it becomes unclear just what a Ben Carson presidential run would look like. The flat tax is an old standard among some branches of the Republican party, so it will be hard for Carson to differentiate himself from what looks likely to be a crowded field. The economy remains the top issue among American voters and Carson has no bonafides that point to any expertise in that arena.
Ditto on foreign policy, where Carson has exactly zero feathers in his cap. In truth, Carson has virtually no baked-in talking points for a Carson 2016 run aside from his take on healthcare — which, again, may not be an issue in 2016.
None of this is even getting into the truths of a run at the presidency. No one has seen Ben Carson the politician at work yet. Republicans often chide President Obama for his supposed inexperience before he assumed office. Obama, though, at least had some experience as a state legislator and as a senator. President Ben Carson would have neither of these and his opponents for the Republican nomination will likely seize on that inexperience as an indication of his unreadiness.
Carson has tried to head off such criticisms already, acknowledging that he hasn’t spent a lot of time in government. Carson says he plans to compensate for his relative inexperience by bringing the right people together around him.
“There is no question that I haven’t spent a lot of time in government. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make sure that you have people around you who have spent that time,” Carson told Bill O’Reilly earlier this year. “I think the thing that is actually more important is wisdom and understanding and knowing how to use facts.”
“When I conducted some very complex operations, including things that hadn’t been done before, it required pulling people together,” Carson said. “Some of them knew a lot of things that I didn’t know about different areas. But being able to coordinate those things and merge them into something that is successful, that’s what we are going to need to do.”
For now, though, Carson can still enjoy his status as the only officially declared candidate for president in the Republican party. He’s in the lead among declared candidates — and that’s got to count for something.