How quickly the tide turns in Washington.
At the first Republican primary debate on Aug. 6, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson appeared unstoppable. Leaping past other establishment candidates, he shocked political pundits when he placed next to Donald Trump in the national polls. Supportive of the less abrasive version of the strident Trump, Republicans rallied behind the man once hailed as the pinnacle of the American Dream. By late October, Carson had surpassed the seemingly insurmountable Trump, leading in a CBS-New York Times poll with 26 percent of the vote, four points higher than Trump. With a compelling childhood story of overcoming gang violence, along with a strong grassroots campaign, Carson seemed set on the path to the Republican nomination.
Less than three months since, the Carson machine seems to be crashing toward an inevitable and messy demise. According to poll data compiled by RealClearPolitics, within two months, Carson’s polls have dropped by a whopping 14 points, forcing the Carson campaign into damage control mode. With the two top advisers resigning in frustration, the only question that remains is, “what happened?”
In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and the Paris bombing, the election has centered more on national security than on the economy. The sudden shift in focus has drawn into question Carson’s expertise and has raised the question whether someone with virtually no experience in government should learn on the fly. After all, why would voters trust a president with no political experience if they would not trust a neurosurgeon with no medical training?
Carson’s lack of expertise became ever apparent in the aftermath of the Paris attack. Inviting him to speak in a live television interview, Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Carson whom he would call to help lead a fight against terrorism. In response to the question, Carson could not give a straight answer. Instead, he dodged the question in a bizarrely Palin-esque display of political naivety, calling for the vague solution of “international cooperation.” Unable to name even one of America’s international allies, Carson seemed uncertain and unknowledgeable—something voters refused to accept in the 21st century of ever-evolving threats.
Ultimately, Carson remains a victim of his own success. While his success revolved around his rags-to-riches story as a violent young teenager in the streets of Detroit who became a celebrated neurosurgeon, it only resonated because of the economic focus the election was taking at the time. Now that the tides have turned to an outward foreign policy focus, Carson’s inexperience seems more apparent than ever; simply put, Carson has failed to adapt.
Unfortunately for Carson, his campaign is hemorrhaging at an unstoppable rate. Unless the campaign can undergo emergency brain surgery, the future of his newfound political career seems uncertain at best and beyond the point of no return at worst.