Does The GOP Know What They’re Getting Into With Carson?

Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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I’ll kick this post off by acknowledging that this issue likely has not gotten too much attention because nobody thinks Ben Carson is going to be the Republican nominee. But Republicans seem to have decided in the last two or three weeks that Donald Trump actually could become the Republican nominee. And Ben Carson is the only one running even close to him in the current (yes, yes, yes very early) horse race numbers.

So here’s my question: Establishment Republicans are positively terrified by a Trump nomination for two distinct reasons. First, because they assume he’d eventually go down in flames and take other party standard-bearers down with him. Second, he’s really pretty heterodox from a GOP perspective. In the terrifying hypothetical that Trump were actually elected 45th President they don’t really have any sense of what he’d do in office. (For myself, I could easily imagine a President Trump ending up like second term Arnold Schwarzenegger.) So if Trump’s the worst case scenario, what about Carson? It seems to me that even from a partisan perspective, Carson is at least as catastrophic as Trump.

First, you clearly don’t have the same heterodoxy concerns with Carson. Because while he’s far right, he’s fairly conventional in those terms. But have you listened to Carson? Set aside that he routinely says things that a lot of voters would find either deeply weird or threatening, have you listened to the guy talk?

I’ve been a little mystified that no one seems to bring this up. But in the debates he frequently strikes me as half-lost or sedated. Gut check me here, am I really the only one who has this impression? Is it just me? Again, like Trump, I think he’s judged by a different standard because people don’t think he’ll ever be the nominee. But he seems like he’s not quite all there or thinking out loud in a way that is vaguely endearing but not at all what people look for in a head of state.

If he’s so weird, why is he doing so well in the polls? Well, I confess that surprises me. But he’s collecting votes on the far right of the Republican party. So I put it down as the dynamics just being profoundly different from the rest of the electorate.

Finally, Carson not only has no experience in elected office. He also has no administrative or organizational experience, which is where businessmen like Trump stake their claim to relevant experience, rightly or not. So again, a general election candidate?

Now, again, maybe this is all besides the point because we all know Ben Carson is not going to be the Republican nominee. Basically I think that’s true. But it’s not just Trump who is keeping up robust support. Carson’s support isn’t that much less than Trump’s and is starting to look no less robust. Have Republicans considered the possibility that Carson could end up nominee? And if so, how he’d play in a national election?

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