JOHNSTON, Iowa—On Thursday night, as the ten leading Republican presidential hopefuls prepared to take the stage in Cleveland, Ohio, some fifty supporters of the candidate Ben Carson bowed their heads at the retired neurosurgeon’s campaign headquarters in Johnston, Iowa.
“We’re just gonna say a prayer,” one campaign official explained, “so we can pray for Dr. Carson to have wisdom during the debate.”
The floor was ceded to a straw-haired college freshman who, without notes and with impressive equanimity, recited Psalm 127 for the occasion:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor over it in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over a city,
the watchman stays alert in vain.
The improvised liturgy went something like this: A note of gratitude to “Father God” for “this room full of people,” a call to "pray over Dr. Ben Carson right now,” more praise to God for what Carson represents—“a true story of redemption”—and then a brief meditation on Solomon, the biblical character known for his wisdom from whom Carson takes his middle name. Finally, the prayer was dedicated “in the precious name of Jesus Christ.”
Ben Carson’s surprise standing in the GOP top tier has been anchored by a block of evangelical and conservative voters like the dozens who tacked on their amens to the pre-debate prayer. One supporter, Mary Lou, described “a feeling” about the former doctor that sounded not unlike that of salvation. “He’s honest, intelligent, I could just go on and on.”