The presidential candidacy of Ben Carson, a tea party star who has catapulted into the top tier of Republican contenders, has been rocked by turmoil with the departures of four senior campaign officials and widespread disarray among his allied super PACs. In interviews Friday, Carson's associates described a political network in tumult, saying the retired neurosurgeon's campaign chairman, national finance chairman, deputy campaign manager and general counsel have resigned since Carson formally launched his bid last month in Detroit. They have not been replaced, campaign aides said.
Every national campaign is all but certain to go through some staffing changes over the course of several months, usually for predictable reasons. But the staffing shake-up at Ben Carson's headquarters is anything but routine. The Washington Post first reported:
The Post piece added that Team Carson "has been marked by signs of dysfunction and amateurism."
To be sure, at this point, there's nothing to suggest the behind-the-scenes tumult is undermining the far-right candidate's support. At least for now, polls show Carson running fourth in the Republican presidential race, and he's actually seen his backing grow in recent weeks, not shrink.
But when a White House hopeful loses that many top members of his team, very quickly, and struggles to replace them, it suggests there's something very wrong with the campaign -- and that real troubles lie ahead.
In fact, the right-wing neurosurgeon's troubles are a reminder that presidential politics isn't nearly as easy as it might look from a distance. Carson has never held or sought elected office at any level at any time, and he's never led any kind of political operation.
Carson has nevertheless made clear that his complete lack of relevant experience shouldn't interfere with the success of his national campaign. The mass resignations suggest otherwise.
If his polls remain solid, maybe organizational chaos is irrelevant? In the short term, maybe, but in the long term, no. Successful presidential candidates need an effective organizational structure to reach voters, disseminate a coherent message, raise resources, and organize a field operation. Carson not only has none of these things, he's actually moving in the opposite direction.
It's an unsustainable course. He's a longshot anyway, but the fact that so many top officials in his campaign have already resigned suggests the Michigan Republican is not long for this race.
According to the Post's piece, Carson's only real strategist who's still part of the team is Armstrong Williams, perhaps best known for his role in a Bush-era scandal in which the conservative commentator was paid to toe the administration's line in the media.