Presidential Campaign

Why the Ben Carson surge has begun

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Dr. Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon, a highly principled conservative, a devout Christian, a candidate who has inspired a devoted following and a political leader who, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has created an enormous parallel-universe communications organization through social media, with the additional alternative media boost of church-based communications that have escaped the attention of the mainstream media.

Until now, that is.

With new polls showing that Carson is catching up with, and in some cases surpassing, GOP front-runner Donald Trump in key states such as Iowa, it will soon be apparent to pundits that he has begun a significant surge to the forefront of the presidential campaign.

{mosads}While as a liberal Democrat I will not support Carson for president, I do respect well-run campaigns and candidates of integrity, including those I may disagree with politically. I took serious note of Carson not only because he has been gaining support among Republicans, but because he has been running very strong in match-ups against Democrats — which certainly attracted my attention.

In many ways the Carson campaign is similar to the Sanders campaign, especially the combination of devoted followers and a powerful presence on social media. But when thinking about why Carson runs so well against Democrats despite the fact that he is more conservative than a majority of the nation, an additional factor occurred to me.

Let’s call it the “bedside manner” factor. While politics is obviously viewed by many voters as a disreputable profession, physicians are widely trusted by patients and neurosurgeons are at the high end of medical professionals who engender high levels of trust.

In an anti-establishment election with voters distrusting politicians, this bedside manner factor is a huge and underestimated plus for the Carson campaign. Carson’s demeanor reminds voters of the old-fashioned family doctor. If Johnny or Suzy is sick, the family doctor can be trusted to make your child well. If someone must operate on your brain, you do not seek a surgeon who talks the loudest or attacks other surgeons; you want someone who is brilliant and thoughtful.

I do not predict that Carson will be elected president. I suspect that when the spotlight shines on him as his prospects for the presidency increase in the public consciousness, some of his more controversial views will come to the fore. We shall see.

What I do predict is that the latest of many surprises in this unpredictable 2016 campaign will be a surge in support for Carson that will exceed the expectations of pundits and potentially make him the Republican front-runner.

If this does occur, Dr. Carson’s bedside manner will be a major factor in his surprising success.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

Tags 2016 presidential campaign 2016 Republican primary Ben Carson doctor Donald Trump neurosurgeon
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