Ben Carson: Rising Star Or Future Burn-Out?

Ben Carson is enjoying happy days as a GOP presidential front-runner for the very distant 2016 campaign. He’s raised $12 million, established a strong base in Iowa, and is leading the pack in a number of early polls. Still, the evangelical neurosurgeon might be falling into the same path as many social conservatives who started strong only to peter out well before the real campaign even starts.

No political outsider has won a presidential campaign or mainstream party nomination since 1952, when legendary General Dwight D. Eisenhower took office. Ben Carson wants to end the outsider dry spell, and there is some hope he can.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Carson’s rise to political prominence began when the 63-year-old doctor criticized Obamacare and the U.S. tax code at a Washington prayer breakfast, with President Obama sitting just a few feet away.

He explained, “I see the fairest individual in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called tithe. He favors a flat tax similar to a tithe.”

Conservatives saw the speech as gutsy and articulate, and liked the religious nature of his policy ideas. Doctor Carson has also offered his own health care reform plan, similar to an optional savings account for medical expenses. Equally impressive is Ben Carson’s backstory.

He grew up in poverty in the desolate streets of Detroit. With the help of his firm mother and his religion, he found an opportunity to enter medical school and became a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. The doctor once led a team of 70 people to separate twins joined at the skull, a procedure that made him famous.

Now, with only two years of political fame under his belt, he’s established a multi-million dollar campaign effort. His campaign manager, Terry Giles, has set a goal to raise $150 million for the campaign, and is aiming to take 55 percent of the popular vote.

“You’ve got to be double digits for it to be a mandate,” Giles explained.

Unfortunately, many of Ben Carson’s strengths with social conservative voters are poison in the general electorate, starting with his off-the-cuff statements.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Carson once called Obamacare the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since slavery. He’s also likened the U.S. to Nazi Germany, complimented ISIS’ resolve, called the VA hospital scandal a gift from God, said reading Mein Kampf will teach a person Obama’s plan for America, and claimed Democrat control of the Senate will lead to anarchy.

Ben Carson is a sound bite and headline-making machine. He’s great for rallying the far right, but terrible for winning over moderates.

Likewise, his references to his strong Christian faith are popular with evangelical voters in Iowa but might fall flat outside the bible belt.

In New Hampshire, where Carson’s team has set up a new office, polling expert Wayne Lesperance says, “[H]e doesn’t seem to be resonating here. I don’t think he’s known.”

Baptist minister Mike Huckabee had a similar profile. He was popular with evangelicals and won in Iowa in the 2008 primaries, then took third in New Hampshire, and then quickly fell off the map.

Televangelist Pat Robertson took second in Iowa in 1988, shocking the country and beating future President George H.W. Bush, only to burn out months later.

Ben Carson may suffer the same fate.

On Saturday, Dr. Carson will join several other GOP contenders for a forum in Iowa, which the Wall Street Journal describes as the unofficial kickoff to next year’s presidential caucuses. His popularity at the event might be seen as a sign of Ben Carson’s eventual success as a candidate, but putting too much emphasis on Iowa’s voters might shackle his campaign to the same failures faced by past social conservatives.

[Image Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons]