Monday, May 4, 2015

Carson: What In The World Is He THINKING??

Dr. Ben Carson officially throws his hat in the ring today (or is that his name in the hat? This year it might as well be!) and announces his run for the presidency. While his announcement surprises no one, Ben Carson's attempt to reach the White House is seen by some as a quixotic long-shot with the added kicker that he doesn't even have a specific political agenda to push like, say, Warren would--and he can already be on FOX News anytime he wants . . .

So, what could possibly be in his head?

He'll Never Win
We don't even have a 538 chart to steal (unattributed) yet--but we don't need one. Carson bears more than a skin-tone similarity to one of 2012's "ballistic arc candidates," Herman Cain. Cain also came onto the field in a technically strong position, wielded his ultimate-outsider (never held elected office) status as his 'can opener' to pry himself a slot in the fray, ran on a message of straight-talk and his particular strengths (Cain: that he was a successful CEO, Carson: that he is a man of great moral vision),  and appealed to conservatives who were stung by being called racist.

Cain, like Carson, also emitted strings of verbal gaffes and seemed to have slept through high school world history classes. Cain eventually flamed out in a string of allegations he'd slept with numerous not-his-wife women (a fate that seems unlikely to match up to Carson) and was mocked by the intelligensia for promoting his 9-9-9 'tax plan' which was as catchy (Romney said it sounded like a pizza add) as it was absurd (the numbers never worked and neither Cain nor his supporters seemed to care).

Carson, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any signature positions at all (at least not yet) but also doesn't have the over-the-top swagger that former Godfather Pizza CEO Cain had. As a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson pretty much checks the "heroic citizen" box in ways even turn-around artist CEO's can't approximate. Carson also, having burst onto the stage by takin' it to Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast speech, is a specific darling of the 3rd leg of the Republican collation: the Social Conservatives. Cain, in theory, held the fiscal conservatives--but he was never going to win over Wall Street.

Still, The Omnivore (and others) have counted out Carson on the basis that your first-ever elected office isn't the Oval one. That, and despite having "been running" for around a year, he doesn't quite seem to get that putting his foot in his mouth with over-the-top statements (Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery, America is like Nazi Germany right now) is kind of like running an Indie 500 car race and never changing your tires: you'll get ahead in the short term--but eventually you're gonna blow out, spin-out, and crash-and-burn (it riles up the base but makes you look crazy to everyone else: it's the iconic short-term-strategy).

On The Other Hand . . .
The below is a chart from a relatively recent Bloomberg National Poll:
Despite what The Omnivore says, Carson scores above Jeb Bush with Republicans and Independents and Bush is the leader in terms of the betting-agency projections (which, we are told, should be taken very seriously). More importantly, he's within the margin of error of Scott Walker and the top-line guy is also-non-starter Rand Paul!

If that's not enough to hang a hat on, what could be?

Also, let's look at Gallup:
This charts how-well-known the candidate is vs. how-well-liked (favorable % minus unfavorable %) Clinton has stellar name-recognition and she also has 11% more people who like her vs. those who don't: Current Pack Leader. Everyone else clusters miserably in the "Whose he?" pack or the "Ugh--That Guy???" pack except for . . .  Carson (with a side-dish or Rubio).

The numbers themselves are +11% for Clinton (more likes than dislikes), +5% for Rubio, and . . . +12% for Dr. Ben Carson: for those who have heard of him, he's the leader in terms of "I've heard of that guy and I like him!"

The early voting states have a rep for handing a win to a conservative Christian in the GOP primaries and right now Carson is poised to take that slot from Ted Cruz who is also making a play for it (Huckabee will too--and Santorum--but both are more like old news).

If the gig on Republican candidates is that the more well known the more disliked they are, it looks like Carson might be the best positioned.

Can you tell The Omnivore that looking at those numbers you just wouldn't run? Finally, Carson has had no problem raising money. Now, that's true for everyone this year--but if there was one thing a for-real political outsider shouldn't be able to do, it's raise cash to compete with the big boys.

The Ben Carson Net-Net
Despite good polling numbers, a financially healthy if unscrupulous Super Pac, and a winning personal story, Carson is set up for another "ballistic arc:"
The Higher You Fly, The Harder You Thunk
The problems are: (a) the polling is just way too early--at this stage even clear questions are plagued with vanity answers ("I'd NEVER vote for Bush . . .  unless he's against that Clinton harpy!") and wish-listing ("I'm sooo pissed at being called racist all the time--I'll throw in for the black guy and let 'em stew on that") and (b) Carson doesn't have much to say except he's "almost as generally acceptable" as Scott Walker.

Carson's presence, like Walker's doesn't offend anyone (unlike, say, Jeb Bush's)--but Walker is the governor of Wisconsin and Carson is a retired doctor. The gap that Carson has to close with his peers is a substance gap--and right now, it's a gulf.

Worse, he hasn't shown an inclination to learn from his mistakes. Yes, he's gotten a handler--but that was a kind of last-resort thing. He doesn't back down on his hyperbolic statements because he's not aware of how they make him look.

Unfortunately, while he will charm (and raise money off) small donors, Carson will be seen by the big-money (unless he gets a special "vanity donor") as a distraction. His road-to-victory would require a Walker-Rubio-Jeb-Cruz Collapse scenario wherein he could beat Huckabee and there might be no other real choice (Romney at the convention would still be an obstacle to Carson at that point).

But What's In HIS Head?
No one--not even Carson--has "never failed at anything"--but look at his biography: when he sets his sights on Mt. Everest, he climbs it. He might be retired from medicine--but he's not feeling 'all used up' so why not take his message to America? Unfortunately, when we are feeling most righteous is when we are most self-righteous: Carson's life-story was a tale about hard work and education as a path to the highest levels of success and respect.

After today it's going to be about his questionable qualifications to lecture the country (and, especially, black people who looked up to him) on a dubious and poorly articulated set of moral failings. This is a mantle that, until recently, Bill Cosby wore more comfortably: Cosby had a rep as America's Dad. Carson isn't quite there yet.

The problem with Dr. Carson isn't that he has chosen to "climb this mountain" (run for POTUS) but the why of it: he is convinced of his own superior moral character and that it, by itself, qualifies him to direct the nation.

The Omnivore will use his Internet Mind Reading to peer into Dr. Benjamin Carson's mind . . . and see what he's thinking!

Walker's a good man. Cruz is a good man--a fighter--but he's mistaking his will to fight with being called. Rubio? Hmm . . . don't quite trust him . . . something shifty about that smile--and the water bottle thing. Can't trust that. And Jeb? A smart man, to be sure--probably a nice enough guy in person--but he's weak. He's weak on the issues. He weak on the battle lines. Cruz isn't afraid to say what needs to be said but underneath that, he's just a pugilist. Walker? 

Walker might be it. We'll see on stage--it'll be him and me. The problem there is he's a politician--business as usual even if he's not quite usual--and that's not where He draws His chosen actors from. No: Walker's not going to get us out of this mess. I can--I will--and they'll all see that once I get out there. I can unite Washington because I'm not of Washington--just like I can unite--heal--our nation because I am of our nation.

It's got to be me--there's no one else. Wait, who's Carly Fiorina?? Announcing the same day as me?? That bitch!

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