Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson hasn't definitively announced his presidential candidacy yet, but signs are mounting that the rising conservative star, who is traveling this week giving speeches, is coming nearer to launching a campaign.
Carson spoke in Kentucky on Tuesday and will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday, but back in Washington, aides were interviewing 35 people who could be staffing Carson's campaign, reports The National Journal,
and Carson said his camp believes "in being prepared."
"That requires a sophisticated and complex infrastructure if I decide to run," Carson said. And while he would not tell The National Journal for sure that he will run, he commented that the midterm elections "pushed me closer ... people are starting to wake up."
Houston attorney and businessman Terry Giles, a longtime friend of Carson's, was among those conducting the interviews, and as chairman of Carson's super PAC, USA First, will chair his campaign should he decide to run.
Giles and his wife are already planning to move to Washington in April, and Giles told one interviewee that Carson's supporters "fully expect him to run."
Others involved in the interview process include Logan Delany, who would serve as a chief financial officer for a Carson campaign; Mike Murray, in charge of digital operations; advertising officer Steve Rabino; Giles' wife and law partner, Kalli O’Malley; and advance man Mike Nason, who is a former producer of the Rev. Robert Schuller’s "Hour of Power" program.
Carson's popularity is already building, with the latest CNN/ORC survey
of voters showing him just behind former candidate Mitt Romney.
Carson, unlike President Barack Obama, is a political newcomer. Instead, his career has been built in the medical field, with one of his major accomplishments coming in 1987 when he was the first physician to separate conjoined twins.
He got his national attention in politics during a critical speech against the president during the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, and Giles says Carson could be the candidate the country will need to unite again.
"Forget about Republicans and Democrats, we need a president of the United States who’s going to bring people together," Giles said. "Ben is thoughtful, he’s inclusive, he’s a great listener. He has some skill sets that we as the public ought to be looking for in a president but so often don’t. So in our campaign, we’ve got to get that message across."
While Carson's momentum is building, an unaffiliated super PAC, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee
and its slogan, "Run Ben Run" may be causing some problems for Carson as he makes his decision, reports Roll Call.
The organization has raised millions of dollars, but its officers may be reaping the financial benefits, reports BuzzFeed.
According to Federal Election Commission data, the super PAC has brought in some $10.8 million, but spending the money on fundraising efforts and a digital campaign. Further, campaign director Vernon Robinson has earned nearly a quarter-million from his work so far, the filings show.
But Armstrong Williams, Carson's business manager and a nationally syndicated columnist, told Roll Call that Carson has "absolutely no relation" with the Draft Carson super PAC.
"We’ve never met with him," Williams commented of Robinson. "When he showed up at a function to take a picture with Dr. Carson, I blocked it."
In addition to the USA First super PAC, Carson also chairs the American Legacy PAC, which began in 2013 to oppose Obamacare.
"Most people are innocent and well-intentioned but don’t ask the right questions," Williams said about potential donors to either PAC. "Ask [Draft Carson organizers] if the money goes to Dr. Carson and they say no ... your hands are tied. We don’t want people exploited."
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