Last May, Dr. Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon-turned-conservative star, was asked if he was going to run for president. "I do not wish that job upon anybody—including myself," he said at the time.
It looks like the good doctor's worst dreams are coming true. Carson said Sunday that he is running for president, telling CBS he will formally unveil his candidacy at an event Monday in his hometown of Detroit.
"Many people have suggested to me that I should run for president, even though I'm not a politician," Carson said. "I began to ask myself why are people clamoring for me to do this? I represented a lot of the same thoughts that they have. "¦ I'm not 100 percent sure politics-as-usual is going to save us."
In March, Carson became the first prominent Republican to announce an exploratory committee. Now that Carson has made official his run for president, his first challenge is to establish himself as a serious candidate, both among voters and donors.
Doing that will likely require a level of consistency he has failed to display in the campaign's early going. For starters, he'll have to do some foreign policy cramming. Consider his recent flub while appearing on the Hugh Hewitt Show, in which he said the Baltic states need to "get involved in NATO," (they are already members of the organization) and misjudged how old Islam is as a religion.
His flair for dramatic rhetoric—like comparing the United States to Nazi Germany or calling Obamacare the "worst thing since slavery"—has drawn both liberal ire and conservative ardor. But his recent comments on gay rights brought him so much flak that he has said he is not going to talk about it anymore.
That same flair, however, has helped build Carson's greatest strength: a legion of grassroots supporters. The 2016 Committee, formerly known as the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, has raised at least $15 million as of March, according to the group's president.
While Carson is considered a long-shot candidate—a recent CNN poll found 9 percent of respondents would vote for Carson in the Republican primary—he is still polling ahead of relative political veterans like Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Rick Perry. Don't be shocked if Carson, not Cruz, turns out to be the choice of Christian conservatives in Iowa.
Once the primaries ramp up, Carson's ad-libs won't just be his own problem; his challengers may be called on to answer for Carson's bombastic statements. And in such a highly competitive race, no one can afford an unforced error.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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