Carson campaign plots expansion

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His pockets fat, Ben Carson is moving to leverage his enormous third quarter fundraising haul to capitalize on his run of success atop the polls.

Early in the cycle, critics questioned whether Carson would be able to compete with more established politicians in fundraising and campaign organization. Carson and his team believe they’ve put those questions to rest.

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“We can design our own campaign now, we have the resources to be able to do that,” Carson told The Hill. “We’ll continue to build our organization around the country and build up our volunteer staff and grow in the natural way a successful campaign does.”

Carson raised $20 million in the third quarter, $8 million more than Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzFiorina returns to attack Clinton's 'lust for power' Trump clinches GOP nomination Eleven states sue Obama over transgender bathroom directive MORE (R-Texas), who is, so far, the next closest contender to have announced his fundraising figures.

Carson’s small-dollar fundraising efforts are expensive but effective, the campaign says. He ended September with about $11.5 million in the bank.

The campaign is putting that money to work, hiring dozens of additional staffers and plotting big-money ad buys in key states, according to Carson’s communications director Doug Watts.

Watts on Tuesday was busy filming one of several new campaign ads set for release in recent weeks.

The campaign has so far released only one ad, part of a half-million dollar buy that ran in early August in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A second ad, part of an estimated $750,000 buy, will go up in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in the next few weeks, extending Carson’s television presence to all four early-voting states.
 
“We haven’t made any bones about it, we’re going to be aggressive in the early voting states,” Watts said. “We’re polling in first or second in all four, so we’re going to do whatever is necessary.”

Furthermore, the campaign is looking at a longer strategy that extends to the so-called “SEC primary states,” the half-dozen or so Southern states that will hold their primaries in early and mid-March.

Here, the campaign is looking to spend $5 million to $10 million on new ads that will run later this year.

The campaign is also busy hiring new staff.

In August, Carson’s team was made up of about 50 staffers. They’ve hired dozens of new employees since then, including field workers and regional directors in the early-voting states, as well as researchers and communications and policy advisers working out of campaign headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

The campaign has swelled to about 80 paid staffers, with another phase of hiring set to begin next month and peak by the end of the year.

Money isn’t expected to be an issue going forward. Watts confidently declared the campaign will raise between $6 million and $10 million a month every month going forward.

“We’re not binging, because we’re not binge thinkers,” Watts said. “But we’re going to have the money to do everything that was on our Christmas list when we started.”

The campaign is also looking for new ways to leverage Carson’s mammoth social media footprint of 4.2 million Facebook likes and 650,000 Twitter followers, while continuing to take advantage of earned media opportunities. Carson has been blanketing the airwaves as interest in his campaign has soared.

Meanwhile, sources close to the super-PACs supporting Carson’s White House bid insist they’re zeroing in on billionaires like those who have boosted the efforts former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTrump encourages Rubio to reclaim Senate seat The Trail 2016: Interleague play Rubio: I'd speak on Trump's behalf at convention MORE (R-Fla.) and others, but so far eluded Carson.

John Philip Sousa IV, who heads The 2016 Committee super-PAC, said a major announcement could come as early as next week. He described the development with a major donor as “enormously exciting.”

A second source said Carson-world has been courting the donor for months, and that the money would be a game-changer.

It’s expected to be someone other than billionaire financier T. Boone Pickens, who recently told NBC that he also intends to support Carson financially, likely through a super-PAC donation.

It’s unclear at this point whether the money would be directed to Sousa’s 2016 Committee, or a different supporting super-PAC called Our Children’s Future, run by Jeff Reeter, the former finance chair of Carson’s campaign.

Still, Sousa and Reeter have been bullish on their ability to attract a big money donor for months, with no success.

The 2016 Committee raised only $3 million in the third quarter through the same small-dollar donations the campaign seeks. The group ended with $1 million in cash-on-hand.

“All I will say is stay tuned,” Sousa said.