Dr. Ben Carson will announce whether he's running for president in the first week of May, the retired neurosurgeon said late Tuesday in a teleforum with supporters.
But first, he needs the cash. “I’m a person who is very fiscally responsible, I never like to be in debt so I want to make sure we have many months of excess funding,” the soon-to-be Republican candidate told supporters as business partner and chat moderator Armstrong Williams urged fans to donate. The phone chat – 63 minutes of Q&A between supporters and Carson -- took place just a few hours before the doctor's new presidential exploratory committee crossed its first fundraising deadline, one Carson told fans in emails was crucial to whether or not he ran.
"We are rapidly approaching that [fundraising goal]," Carson told supporters.
On Wednesday morning, Carson spokesman Doug Watts told msnbc they haven't yet totaled fundraising numbers from the first 28 days of the campaign, but estimated they'd raise $2 million or more from more than 30,000 donors. $750,000 of that came during the first 48 hours after Carson declared he'd explore a presidential bid on March 3rd, Watts added.
"It’s an unbelievable number -- it surpassed even our wildest expectations!" Watts told msnbc. "He’s been in 23 states in the last 28 days. There's been a tremendous outpouring of support from all kinds of people."
Carson's numbers don't yet compare to the cash other likely candidates are pull in. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz skipped the exploratory committee phase and raised $2 million in the four days after announcing his presidential bid while former Florida Gov. Jeb is thought to be on his way to raising $100 million in the first quarter of the year.
The average contribution has fluctuated, Watts said, but estimated the average would be below $100 -- a nod to Carson's grassroots success. "We don’t have any of the Jeb Bush list of $50,000 or $100,000 donors, we’ve got all small donors," he said.
Carson became a conservative celebrity two years ago when he criticized President Obama while giving the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast with the president sitting a few seats down; since then, he's earned a considerable grassroots following that's put his books on bestseller list and given millions to the super PAC that's encouraging him to run. The National Draft Ben Carson PAC told msnbc in February they had raised more than $15 million.
Last month, Carson hired three national fundraisers, a move that indicates both how serious Carson is about a campaign and what kind of campaign he might run.
Mike Murray, a direct mail fundraiser who has previously advised Newt Gingrich, will oversee small-dollar fundraising efforts if Carson takes the plunge. Houston businessman Jeff Reeter will be the national finance chairman and a former Gingrich fundraiser Amy Pass will work as national finance director, according to The Hill; those two hires that indicate that Carson will work to compete for larger donors, too.