Back in May, when Dr. Carson announced he was joining the GOP clown parade, I thought he stood the risk of damaging a long, worthwhile career in neurosurgery with a sideline in personal inspiration for an under-thought attempt to… sell more books, or improve his name recognition, or work through the grief of his beloved mother’s declining health. So I figured he’d be mostly ignored, maybe thumped around by some of the more aggressive GOPer candidates as a practice dummy, and eventually disappear into the triva-game mists with Lincoln Chafee and Larry Lessig.
… According to the latest poll from Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register, Carson is ahead of the pack with 28 percent of the vote. But more interesting are the facts behind his rise. Iowans aren’t just charmed by his demeanor, his experience, and his inexperience as a politician and policymaker—although that’s definitely true—they also support his most controversial, and entirely ludicrous, ideas…
… The vast majority of Iowa Republicans are still undecided. As the caucus comes closer, their preference might change. And other candidates, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are also popular with GOP voters in the state. What it does mean, if anything, is that Carson speaks the language of Iowa Republicans. They like his rhetoric, whether it’s absurd, ignorant, or genuinely offensive…
What I didn’t appreciate was the Chauncey Gardiner effect — the degree to which a soft-spoken, well-intentioned innocent from within a sealed bubble could become a figurehead for some of the worst and most dangerous impulses in modern American politics. Dr. Carson is a devout Seventh Day Adventist, and a gifted surgeon, and his particular gifts and circumstances have apparently protected him from exposure to any information that might conflict with a trophy cupboard of 1950s moral axioms and 1980s neoconservative financial theories.
As the NYTimes perceives it, “Calm Manner Has Ben Carson Rising in Polls“:
… “That smile and his soft voice makes people very comforted,” said Miriam Greenfield, a farmer in Jewell, Iowa.
In an election season that has confounded party leaders and experts, the rise of Mr. Carson is another unexpected twist. His supporters cite Mr. Carson’s character, not his positions, as the main reason they back him. And they say his low-key approach is precisely what would tame Washington’s bitter partisanship, rather than Mr. Trump’s swagger.
“He is kind when he speaks, and he doesn’t have an agenda to set himself up as wonderful,” said Donna Christiansen, a retiree in Ames.
What is more, Mr. Carson’s provocative comments on topics like Nazism and slavery, which pundits and commentators regularly denounce, seem only to deepen the enthusiasm his evangelical base feels for him. He has connected with Republican women here, who prefer him to Mr. Trump. And he has built momentum far from the political establishment, which was unimpressed with his debate performances and his lack of governing experience. He conducts chats on Facebook and visits medical clinics and churches rather than the usual political stops…
And unlike some other candidates popular with the party’s grass roots, Mr. Carson has built a muscular financial base. His $20.8 million raised over the summer, most in small donations, was more than the total of any other Republican candidate. On Friday, he released his first television ad in the four early nominating states. Read more