Key Iowa Caucus Activist: Underestimate Ben Carson 2016 at Your Own Peril
Last week, I wrote for the Washington Times that out here in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, I am getting more questions about Dr. Ben Carson than any other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. With the American people becoming increasingly irate with our current political class, someone who seems untainted by the status quo, and is an inspirational testimony to the American Dream like Dr. Carson, becomes an attractive option.
Since that column was published, Dr. Carson finally made his first foray into my home state last weekend. Given what one of the Iowa’s top conservative activists told me, the advanced buzz preceding Dr. Carson is only going to escalate.
“Based on what I saw if you’re underestimating Ben Carson 2016 you’re doing so at your own peril,” said this activist, who preferred not be named. He’s worked on campaigns in Iowa ranging from president to state legislature.
Dr. Carson was the guest of honor for the Polk County Republican Party’s summer fundraiser and 2016 straw poll. Polk is Iowa’s largest county, but sadly the GOP organization there is perhaps the state’s most dysfunctional. It’s been marred by in-fighting, back-biting, petty egos, and tribal shenanigans for as long as most can remember. I know, because it’s my county party and I once ran for chairman of it.
So for a kangaroo court like the Polk County GOP to be the first to land the last remaining 2016 big fish in Dr. Carson was noteworthy. Even more so considering the coalition of people my activist friend told me came out to see him.
“I saw Tea Party people there who stopped coming to party events the past few years because they had lost hope, but they told me they were excited by Dr. Carson,” this Iowa activist told me. “I saw establishment people, conservatives, and African-Americans you never see at a GOP event. I’m a regular at these things, and I probably didn’t recognize half of the room.”
Regarding the size and make-up of the crowd awaiting Dr. Carson, he told me “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“There were hundreds of people waiting in line for a book signing,” he said. “You just don’t see that in Iowa. Especially for a political candidate. They had to pay to get their books signed, and the wait was still an hour and a half long. Imagine how many people would’ve showed up if he was signing for free? If he gets into the race it’s going to make polling the Iowa Caucuses much more difficult, because you have no idea who might actually turn out to vote.”
This Iowa activist said he was impressed at the issues Dr. Carson touched on.
“Dr. Carson really dug in on the dangers and disaster of the welfare state,” this activist said. “He focused a lot on Obamacare from a doctor’s perspective, and how we can’t give up the fight to get rid of it. He touched on the need for a return to the gold standard and how abandoning it has led to our immoral debt. He talked about the situation in Ferguson, and how it wasn’t about racism but the rule of law, and how blacks in America are being sold out by their so-called leaders.
“And then he really attacked political correctness. He flat-out said if you don’t make it in America that’s your own fault and you’re not a victim. He said a lot of the things we’ve wanted our candidates to say for so long, but too many of them are afraid to because they’re scared they’ll be called racists.”
Still, as I wrote for The Washington Times last week, a candidate can generate all the buzz he wants. But without a credible organization that buzz doesn’t translate into votes. This activist friend of mine said he doesn’t think that’s going to be a problem for a political novice like Dr. Carson.
“He’s got Adam Waldeck working for him, and he’s one of the best grassroots organizers and operatives I’ve ever met,” this activist told me. “That guy is one of the biggest reasons why Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary last time.”
This activist concluded by telling me “I bet everyone in that room came away with Dr. Carson on their short list for 2016.” Dr. Carson won the Polk County straw poll going away, with 62 percent of the vote. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished a distant second and third, respectively.
“I came in a healthy skeptic myself because I’m a movement conservative who tends to shy away from media sensations, but Dr. Carson was impressive,” this activist told me. “His wife was out there charming the crowd as well. I was already a strong lean towards Cruz but Dr. Carson really gave me a lot to think about. Now I’m thinking our strongest ticket might by Cruz-Carson or Carson-Cruz.”
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