Josh Marshall asks a good question about Ben Carson.
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?
I have heard Dr. Carson speak in clips from his speeches and soundbites from interviews, which does not give you the full dimension of what he’s saying, but from what I’ve heard he sounds to me like someone calling in to a C-SPAN show where they have open phones. He has a very strong set of views that can only be described — at least to this obviously not neutral observer — as way the hell out there. Extremism on reproductive rights is just one of his many points of view; he’s not very 20th century on same-sex marriage or even being gay, and my guess is that when it comes to something like affirmative action. he’s not wild about it. As the article points out, he also has no elective office experience or even administrative background.
So why is he doing so well in the polls? My guess is that because he comes across on TV and on the stump as calm, cool, and reserved, the things he says sound reasonable. Remember that Dr. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon, so even the most extreme ideas and opinions can sound rational when they’re delivered as if someone is accustomed to saying, “All right, now let’s count backward from 100. 99, 98…”
I also think that the Republicans are so desperate to find someone — anyone — that can run against Hillary Clinton that they will grasp at any straw. Also, this early in the campaign, they can take a couple of weeks and consider the wild ones before settling down with their rational choice for the general election. Four years ago Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann polled well, much to the delight of those of us who enjoy the entertainment side of politics.
The problem now is that there is no Mitt Romney or John McCain out there to settle down with. Jeb Bush is cutting staff and campaign spending, hoping, like President Rudy Giuliani, to make a big hit in the later primaries. So Ben Carson might be their rational choice.