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Ben Carson Making Case to Be Taken Seriously in 2016

By Scott Conroy - November 13, 2014

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For now, many national Republican strategists see Carson as a potential nuisance candidate -- someone who may stir the pot and make life difficult for the frontrunners but also ill-equipped to go the distance in a campaign that requires unflinching message discipline. 

And indeed, Carson has provided plenty of fodder to validate that view.  

In a spring interview with RealClearPolitics, for instance, he suggested that the demands and scrutiny of his current life on the lecture and media circuit are similar to what he would face in a presidential campaign.   

“I’m not sure it is that different, to be honest with you, than what I’ve been doing the last year,” Carson said. “If it needs to be done, having spent decades with 12- to 18-hour days, it will still be a piece of cake in comparison.” 

And like previous Republican long-shot contenders who rallied the conservative grassroots only to flame out eventually, Carson has a tendency to overreach in searching for the punchiest sound bite. 

He is particularly fond of doling out dubious comparisons between the United States under President Obama and Nazi Germany under Hitler, for which he has refused to backtrack whenever given the opportunity to do so.  

During an interview with liberal radio host Alan Colmes that was conducted just before the midterms, Carson speculated that if Republicans did not win the Senate, there might not even be an election in 2016 because “there may be so much anarchy going on” in the United States.  

Carson’s proclivity for overstatement sometimes rankles even his closest advisers.       

“We’ve watched him commit gaffe after gaffe and thought he’d torpedoed himself,” said Armstrong Williams, the conservative commentator and filmmaker who is Carson’s longtime business manager. “And yet people are willing to dust him off because they see something much deeper. It seems like the longer he stays on the scene, the more he gains. Of course, he’s a long shot.” 

Still, the Iowa Republican caucuses have a tradition of elevating such long shots, and the infrastructure there that has already been built for Carson figures to give him a significant leg up over previous underdogs.

In addition to the draft movement, he has two other political action committees working on his behalf, revealing his backers’ aptitude for navigating the tangled web of big-money groups -- a facility that is essential for any serious national political contender. 

Carson serves as chairman of Save Our Health Care, a project funded by the American Legacy PAC, which raised over $6 million during the last election cycle.  

That group is now in the process of launching a related 501(c)(4) “public welfare” organization called The American Legacy Center, which will have the ability to hide its donors’ identities and thus become a more appealing avenue for some deep-pocketed financiers, who often want to remain anonymous.  

Nonetheless, in keeping with the makeup of the other pro-Carson efforts, American Legacy PAC Executive Director Adam Waldeck said he expects the new group to remain largely reliant on small donors.   

“He has such a strong grassroots following,” Waldeck said. “In your typical (c)(4), you’ll probably see a lot of big donors -- and obviously those are folks we’re having conversations with, too -- but if we can have it both ways, that’d be the way to do it.” 

The fourth outside group promoting Carson is called USA First PAC -- an organization that acts as the prospective candidate’s direct political arm.  

Over the weekend, an hour-long, campaign-style documentary promoting Carson ran in 37 local media markets around the country, including in Iowa. 

Upon learning that the film -- made by the production company Williams operates -- had been released, the Fox News Channel terminated Carson’s status as a paid contributor.  

Though Williams insists Carson is seriously considering a presidential bid, he hopes the subject of his most recent film decides against it.

When told Carson had suggested that the demands on his current professional life were similar to those he would face in a presidential campaign, the moviemaker laughed heartily.  

“He’s not a politician and clearly does not understand what it takes to run for president,” Williams said. “He’s a very caring person. He sees the good in people, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he can maintain that person he’s always been or whether politics will change that calmness and that spirit and the warmth. You know, naivety can be a wonderful thing.”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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