By most measures, retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson has had a brutal week as a Republican presidential candidate. He’s repeatedly struggled with the basics of American civics; he’s been incoherent during major media interviews; and in South Carolina, he attended a breakfast where he actually lost a couple of teeth.
But at this point, either GOP voters don’t care about Carson’s missteps or they actually approve of his deeply strange national platform.
Following a trio of Republican campaign announcements last week, Ben Carson leaps to the top spot of GOP presidential candidates in the latest Fox News poll tied with presumed GOP front-runner Jeb Bush. […[Both Bush and Carson sit atop the Fox poll at 13 percent each among Republican primary voters. That’s a seven-point bounce for Carson who was at just 6 percent in the same poll in April.
To be sure, polls are pretty volatile at this point in the process, so it’d be a mistake to assume that Carson is suddenly a top-tier contender because he’s up to 13% in a Fox News poll.
More interesting, at least to me, is the apparent disconnect between Carson’s performance as a candidate and Carson’s standing among Republican voters. Ideally, the way a campaign is supposed to work, there should be some symmetry – the more ridiculous a candidate becomes, the worse he or she does.
With the far-right neurosurgeon, it seems to be the opposite.
Just this week, for example, Carson endorsed the idea that presidents are legally entitled to ignore Supreme Court rulings. He also sat down with CNBC’s John Harwood, and made some bizarre comments about marriage equality, which left Harwood saying, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Carson thinks President Obama is a “psychopath,” the Supreme Court may not deserve the power of judicial review, the unemployment rate is a big ruse orchestrated by “slick politicians and biased media,” and raising taxes on the poor is fine – it may be “condescending” not to.
When I see this, I start to worry about Ben Carson. According to Fox News’ poll, when Republican primary voters see this, they start to consider him a leading contender for the White House.
It’d be so much easier to dismiss Ben Carson’s candidacy as a joke if only GOP voters agreed. The lingering question is, does Carson do well in polls despite his strange behavior or because of it?