A few weeks ago, the sky seemed the limit for Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon was surging in the polls, and had overtaken every single one of his rivals in Iowa. From the looks of it, he was going to be a real player come primary season.
How fast things change. Just one week after the terror attacks in Paris, left-wing website Politico reports that Carson is fading — fast. His supporters are flocking to Texas Senator Ted Cruz:
[A]fter a week of confused comments from the former neurosurgeon and a dismissive critique by his own advisors, Iowans are now consistently voicing doubt about Carson’s credentials to be commander-in-chief.
Indeed, they said the terrorist attacks have reordered the candidates in their mind, lifting Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio and, for many, making Carson an afterthought.
Alan Hilgerson, a Des Moines-based physician, says what many Iowa conservatives are thinking:
He’s a great guy, he’s fun to listen to, but I didn’t hear anything substantive. I don’t know that I’d want him as my president.
Marilu Erdahl, another conservative Iowan, adds that she was torn between Carson and Cruz, but decided to support the latter because of his knowledge of foreign policy — and, more precisely, the war on terror:
He has experience, he’s shown what he can do. With the state of affairs we’re in right now, I think it is very important. It’s vital….We need someone who knows the ropes, who’s not the establishment but who doesn’t need on-the-job training.
In short, the momentum has changed. In Iowa at least. And Cruz knows it.
“On the Republican side, I think the Paris attacks infuse a greater seriousness to the search for who is prepared to be commander-in-chief, who has the experience, who has the judgment, who has the understanding of the very real and growing threats facing America,” the Texas senator said. “The overlay of the Paris attacks, even today, the horrific attack in Mali, makes clear that we need a president who’s prepared on Day 1 to understand the nature of the threats facing America and to lead this country in standing up to these threats and defending our citizens from the growing menace of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Interestingly, the very characteristics that made Carson the frontrunner only a few weeks ago — being soft-spoken, his calm demeanor — are now seen as his main weaknesses. Iowa Republicans describe Carson as “lacking fire in the belly” and being uninformed on national security and foreign policy issues. At the same time, they believe that Cruz is very well informed on these issues and has a passion and energy Carson lacks.
Earlier this month, liberal media and even Donald Trump tried to tear Carson apart by scrutinizing his biography. The result of this was that conservatives rallied behind him. Instead of hurting him, it may have helped him. What does hurt him now is his lack of knowledge and his status as an outsider. He could make up for the latter if he was passionate and outspoken, like Trump. However, that’s just not the guy Carson is: he is extremely laid back and can’t even fake aggression.
I’m calling it: as long as the terror threat remains on top of the news, Carson will continue to lose support. If things don’t change fast — and they’re unlikely to — he will fade even more, and his campaign will be all but over when Iowans get to vote.
Disclosure: Michael van der Galien co-founded Ted Cruz 45.