As summer turned to fall, Ben Carson had every reason to be delighted with his presidential campaign’s standing. Third-quarter fundraising looked great; the polls in early October were strong; and the candidate’s routine breaks with reality didn’t seem to bother his GOP fans.
Carson was in such good shape, he spoke openly about his suspicion that there had been divine intervention on behalf of his campaign. “I don’t know what will happen to my campaign for the presidency, but I do know that up until this point it’s been a force greater than myself,” he recently boasted. “And no one can really explain what’s happened here. I was talking to a famous pollster within this past week and he said, ‘We were all sitting around talking and, you know, none of us can explain why you’re doing so well.’”
The Wall Street Journal reported overnight, however, that just below the surface, “things weren’t going as well.”
Internal campaign budget documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show a political operation hemorrhaging cash. Mr. Carson’s team raised $8.8 million in October and spent $9.5 million – putting the retired neurosurgeon’s effort under water months before the first early-state voters caucus and cast ballots.The budget documents also undermine the Carson campaign’s Nov. 1 claim that it raised $10 million in October – a figure Mr. Carson himself talked up on Twitter.
The report paints an ugly picture of a campaign operation, led by an amateur candidate, that spent months raising millions of dollars from supportive donors, only to reinvest the money in the search for new donors.
Part of the problem, not surprisingly, is that Team Carson doesn’t appear to know what it’s doing. “Some of Mr. Carson’s biggest donors,” the Journal reported, “for weeks furious about the rate at which his campaign has spent money, have begun to air their grievances publicly.”
But perhaps more important still is that the campaign, despite strong fundraising totals in an absolute sense, may struggle with finances at the worst possible time.
The Journal added that Carson’s spending patterns “could complicate the challenges” facing the amateur candidate.
That’s probably understating matters. Carson has fallen from the top tier of GOP candidates at the national level. And in Iowa where he once led. And in New Hampshire, where he’s gone from second place to seventh place since November.
Common sense suggests the campaign would start looking for new ways to put its resources to use, but if the operation is already “hemorrhaging cash,” that’s not really one of Team Carson’s choices right now.
A couple of months ago, Marco Rubio’s super PAC prepared a briefing for donors arguing that only four candidates are credible poised to compete for the Republican nomination: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Rubio, and Ben Carson. Under the circumstances, it seems that quartet has become a trio.