It’s a sunny Thursday in late October, and outside the nondescript office building in Alexandria, Virginia, across from the King Street metro stop, there’s no evidence that a presidential campaign is being run within. No colorful signs or banners decorate the exterior or press up against the windows overlooking the street. But inside, the office hums. Opposite a column festooned with fan mail stretches a bullpen containing a half-dozen busy campaign workers. In another room, a separate group pores over a tally of delegates in various states. Overseeing them all—and everything else—is Barry Bennett, who officially signed on as Ben Carson’s campaign manager in March, brought in to professionalize the pediatric brain surgeon’s outsider bid for the White House.
Indeed, one of the things Bennett likes about Carson, he tells me, is that the candidate is smart enough to know when to call in an expert. When doctors “come upon a problem they don’t know the answer to, they are trained to call someone else. They’re ready, willing, and able to surround themselves with the smartest people they can find. Any candidate who tells you they’re the best at everything?” he says. “Run!”
Bennett, who has been in and out of campaign politics for three decades, says he always wanted to lead a presidential campaign, but, at 52, he thought his “time had passed.” Then, in December, he got the call from Carson’s people, and he went down to Palm Beach, Florida, to meet the candidate. “He’s an amazing guy with an amazing story, a hundred percent genuine. I fell in love with him,” Bennett says. (So, it seems, has a good chunk of the Republican electorate: After starting out as a long shot, Carson has taken a narrow lead in Iowa and, according to some polls, nationally.)