If you’re a supporter of Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, this was a holiday season to forget. The day before Christmas Eve, for example, the Republican candidate told reporters he was planning a major staff shake-up in his operation, but a few hours later, Carson said the opposite and distanced himself from his own comments.
The day before New Year’s Eve, the on-again, off-again overhaul of the campaign operation was on-again. A day later, several of Carson’s top aides resigned.
Two top aides to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson have quit the campaign, citing internal tensions.In the latest sign that Carson’s campaign is struggling, Campaign Manager Barry Bennett and Communications Director Doug Watts have resigned amid the one-time top-tier candidate’s dropping poll numbers.
A few hours later, Carson’s deputy campaign manager, Lisa Coen, also quit.
To be sure, this is hardly the first time a presidential candidate has made a major staffing overhaul during a campaign, and it’s not always a sign of impending doom. Twelve years ago, John Kerry changed campaign managers around Thanksgiving 2003 and he nevertheless went on to win the Democratic nomination.
Carson, however, is no Kerry, who knew quite a bit about winning elections and effectively leading a team. What’s more, Kerry replaced a seasoned campaign professional with a different seasoned campaign professional, while the Washington Post reported that Carson has tapped retired Major Gen. Robert Dees, who represents a curious choice.
On Thursday, Carson’s presidential campaign officially promoted Dees from foreign policy adviser to campaign chairman. It was not just a reboot, but a return to the campaign Carson had always wanted, less driven by consultants than believers. Dees, a vice president at Liberty University, had never worked for a campaign before.
At first blush, the idea of a first-time candidate partnering with a first-time campaign manager seems like an unfortunate combination for a White House run, but in this case, it’s probably worse than it appears.
Dees, like his new boss, is a strange figure in his own right, warning Values Voter Summit attendees a couple of years ago that there are American cities that are home to “all Islamic sanctuaries … within which there are fundamentalist sleeper cells.” He specifically named Nashville, Tennessee, Lackawanna, New York, Greenville, North Carolina, and Dearborn, Michigan as these strongholds. “The enemy is within,” he warned.
Dees is also a Benghazi conspiracy theorist and a proponent of the idea that Common Core education standards are a national security threat.
Foreign Policy magazine profiled Dees a couple of months ago, noting that the retired general has “advocated for a national security strategy centered on Christian evangelism,” adding, “When it comes to terrorism, all Muslims – some 23.4 percent of the world’s population – are equally worthy of suspicion.”
Yep, say hello to a prominent presidential candidate’s brand new campaign manager.
I’m reminded of something the Washington Post recently reported: “When you run for the House or seek statewide office, you learn a lot about how campaigns work. When you try to start in politics with a presidential campaign, standard rookie mistakes – like not dealing well with conflicting advice and not having clearly delineated lines of authority – get magnified. Dwight Eisenhower was our last president who had never held elected office before seeking the presidency, but he had commanded the Allied invasion on D-Day.”
As we discussed, one gets the impression that Carson never thought any of this through. His plan – I use the word loosely – was to put himself out there as a righteous voice with an impressive personal history. Details like campaign infrastructure and organization were pesky annoyances that the retired neurosurgeon knew nothing about and couldn’t be bothered to figure out.”
When Carson’s campaign comes to an end, it’s likely he’ll blame his aides, his finance team, the media, and his better performing rivals, but it’ll be the candidate himself who sealed his own fate.