A damning report published last week in the Wall Street Journal indicated strongly that Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign has hit the skids, is in desperate need of competent leadership, and may be subject to abuse by unscrupulous campaign consultants. The majority of the campaign’s donations, it was revealed, are being used to reach new donors. That misuse of financial resources led at least one donor to accuse the campaign of serving as a vehicle to line the pockets of Carson’s operatives. When confronted by the Journal with these allegations, Carson’s campaign spokesperson Doug Watts did not inspire confidence. “I don’t know how much we’ve spent,” he said. “That’s something I hardly ever track.” If this wasn’t simply theatrics, this flippant response to grave allegations exposed either striking ineptitude or unprofessional indifference.
This tale of internal turmoil within the Carson campaign turned out not to be an isolated event. Instead, it was a sign of things to come.
“It costs 55 cents in the Carson campaign to raise a dollar. So if you look at, ‘Oh, he raised $20 million, what is the net to the campaign?’ Most of that is going out every month in consulting fees to these guys,” Harold Doley, a former Reagan administration official who hosted a fundraiser for Carson in early October, alleged. Combined with Dr. Carson’s collapse in both national and early state polling from his November peak (he has fallen in the Real Clear Politics national average of polls from first place at 24.8 percent to fourth place with 9.3 percent), this revelation should prompt any campaign to make some serious changes. That’s just what Carson contemplated.
Two days before the Christmas holiday, and with the news cycle slowing to a crawl, the nation’s political reporters received an early holiday present as Ben Carson revealed to the Associated Press that a major campaign shakeup was in the works. “I’m looking at every aspect of the campaign right now,” Carson confirmed to the Washington Post. “Everything is on the table, every job is on the table.”
“Carson blames staff for his fall in polls,” Post reporter Robert Costa revealed. He confirmed what others had reported, that Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett might find himself out of a job sooner rather than later. Apparently, Bennett was the last to know. He wasn’t informed by his candidate about the revealing interviews he was giving to reporters in person from his Maryland home until after they were concluded, and he wasn’t aware that the subject of conversation was to be his performance as a campaign operative. Perhaps a bit embarrassed, Bennett responded to the Associated Press report “suggesting [Carson] would consider sidelining his top aides” by texting to AP reporters “No staff shake-up.”
“He was talking strategy not personnel,” Bennett said of his candidate, who told reporters just hours prior to expect “personnel changes.” That’s an unconvincing attempt at cleanup, but Bennett didn’t have much to work with. Whatever one thinks of campaign operatives, Carson’s decision to go rogue and arrange press interviews without the foreknowledge of his staff – and then to reveal that those sidelined staffers might soon be out of work – is very poor form.
One of the most salient criticisms of Dr. Carson’s background is that, while pediatric neurosurgery is a physically and mentally demanding line of work, it is no substitute for executive experience managing an outfit as unwieldy as a national campaign — to say nothing of the federal government. Carson’s comportment in the week that preceded the Christmas holiday seems to have confirmed that he isn’t ready for the presidency.