According to recent polls, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has become Donald Trump’s main challenger in Iowa. The two are now tied with 23%. Trump and Carson need to win in Iowa if they want to stay in the race; they have no alternative path to the nomination. This is especially true because, from the looks of it, Ted Cruz is going to sweep the entire south. It could very well be that after a week into the primaries, the only people standing are Cruz, an establishment candidate (Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio) and the person who wins Iowa and possibly New Hampshire. That means: Carson or Trump.
That’s why it makes perfect sense for The Donald to go after Ben Carson now. In an interview with the Daily Caller, the billionaire businessman blasted the neurosurgeon for lacking the experience necessary to govern the country:
Asked by TheDC whether being a doctor provides the necessary experience to be president, Trump said while Carson is “a wonderful guy,” he thinks it would be “very tough” for someone who spent his life as a surgeon to handle the job.
The Donald explained:
I think it’s a very difficult situation that he’d be placed in. He’s really a friend of mine, I just think it’s a very difficult situation that he puts himself into, to have a doctor who wasn’t creating jobs and would have a nurse or maybe two nurses. It’s such a different world. I’ve created tens of thousands of jobs over the years.
Although Trump calls Carson his “friend,” this line attack is — of course — anything but friendly. He’s basically saying that Carson isn’t capable of being a good president. He has managed “a nurse, maybe two nurses,” which is a great insult, not in the least because Carson actually was his department’s head and therefore had far more people working below him. All doctors and all nurses were accountable to him. The Donald knows this as well, but such inconvenient facts don’t bother him; Carson is a threat and has to be taken out.
Remarkably, Trump still refuses to go after another possible challenger: Ted Cruz. In the past he suggested that Cruz might not be eligible because he was born in Canada, albeit to an American mother. He now does a u-turn and says that he no longer has such qualms:
It was never a big point for me, but I have watched other people question him, and the legal scholars have been satisfied.
The question, of course, is: why does Trump go after Carson, but not Cruz? Why does he leave Cruz alone? Better yet, why does he actually go to an anti-Iran deal rally organized by the senator from Texas, thereby basically endorsing him as a reliable conservative candidate?
The reason is, I believe, that Cruz is an absolute favorite of the conservative base. Even Trump supporters greatly respect him and hold him in high esteem. If Trump were to go after him, he’d risk losing their support; it’d be a clash between him and a rock-solid conservative. Considering his past statements (in support of single payer healthcare, for instance), that’s a battle he can’t possibly win. Besides, Cruz is a politician — a guy who’s been serving in Washington for a few years now. Trump isn’t angling for voters who care about political experience; he’s portraying himself as the ultimate outsider.
On the other hand, Ben Carson is basically going after the same kind of voters: members of the base who believe only an outsider can set things straight in Washington. That means Trump and Carson are rivaling each other for the same kind of voter. And yes, that means The Donald has to go after Carson when he gets too close. Especially when that’s happening in Iowa, a state Trump has to win if he wants to have any chance of becoming the Republican Party’s nominee.
That’s why I’m expecting some serious fireworks in the weeks to come. Carson and Trump will have to battle it out for the “outsider vote.” Only one of them can be left standing. The only question is who? The soft-spoken, but brilliant neurosurgeon, or the rude billionaire businessman?