Presidential elections are loaded with lies and rumors that fuel some campaigns while taking others down. In the search for truth, we try to stay clear of anything that isn’t concrete, but a recent theory about Ben Carson’s campaign seems to make too much sense to ignore.
I first heard it from a political pundit that I don’t really respect [name omitted to protect the relationship] and so I dismissed it without digging much deeper. Then, I heard it again in a slightly different form yesterday from Ben Shapiro, a conservative voice that I do respect. Their theories surround Ben Carson’s strange campaign antics and the concept that there’s an ulterior motive behind it. You can hear Shapiro talk about it on his Monday podcast.
After digging deeper, I’ve made a variation of the theory that I believe is likely most accurate. Carson is running for President, but that’s his “stretch goal.” In business and politics, a stretch goal is something that may be achievable, but if it’s not fully achieved, there are still smaller goals that can be achieved along the way if everything is positioned properly. Unlike some, I don’t doubt that Carson wants to be President, but after falling to Donald Trump’s attacks in Iowa after a short time on top of the polls, he and his senior staff realize that his actual chances are next to none.
Achieving the stretch goal of being President requires speeches, town halls, debates, and more speeches. Achieving their smaller goals requires one thing: contacts and email addresses. It sounds mundane, but contacts and email addresses represent the potential to build an extremely lucrative and powerful organization after the campaign is done.
As Shapiro points out, Carson has been a fundraising monster over the last six months. He has accumulated a ton of cash, but the majority of that cash has been used to accumulate more cash. It’s not a winning strategy, but it’s definitely an organizational growth strategy. You raise funds and spend those funds on accumulating more contacts and email addresses which you use to raise more funds that are then used to accumulate more contacts and email addresses. It does very little to generate mass support or to get out a strong Presidential message the way that television, radio, digital, and print ads can, but it’s an incredible strategy for accumulating contacts and email addresses.
When the campaign ends, you don’t get to keep the money. However, you do get to keep the contacts and email addresses. These aren’t the types of email addresses that one can buy off a list for a few thousand dollars. These are double opt-in, high open rate, super-low spam-reported email addresses that can be used post-campaign to drive pretty much anything that Carson and his team want to do. They’re good for Presidential campaigns. They’re pure gold for building an organization.
What would this organization be? We know that Carson writes books and likes to promote them. We know that he’s a great public speaker; don’t look at his debate performances as an example but instead look to the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast that essentially propelled him into the public spotlight and generated the calls for him to run for President. Lastly, we know that he’s passionate and would like to change the world for the better with his wife and an organization that is partially political, partially philanthropic. Lastly, we know that he wants to build a new generation of leaders that share his values.
Building an organization that promotes a positive message, sells books, builds leaders, helps charities, and lands him speaking engagements can be most rapidly and easily achieved with a powerful contact and email list.
Here’s what we know about his campaign. He conspicuously and suspiciously announced that he wasn’t going to New Hampshire or South Carolina before the caucus was really rocking and rolling. I like Carson and would hate to accuse him of anything devious, but it’s strange. It’s as if it were a trap to allow him to play the victim and both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took the bait.
Later in the week, he fired half of his campaign staff. Saving money.
Then, there’s the style itself. The fundraising for the sake of fundraising isn’t some out-of-the-box strategy that someone advised him would work for votes nor is it a silly mistake by an inexperienced politician. He’s been told many times over the last few months that it won’t get him the nomination. He’s been asked about it publicly. It only makes sense if he wants to maintain the appearance of campaigning while accumulating the spoils of campaign war instead.
As I noted last week, I supported Carson before switching to Cruz. A friend noted that I had Tweeted over 100 pro-Carson Tweets over the last few months. I like him and respect him, but I also feel a little betrayed. It seems he’s trying to build the type of organization that Al Gore built following his loss, though obviously from an opposite ideology. I can accept that and even support it, but it’s a shame that he may be dragging people along for a ride that he knows won’t conclude the way they want it to conclude.
It should be noted that I do not believe this has been the plan all along. I believe that he’s been pragmatic about hedging his bets. He wanted to be President. He still wants to be President. He’d likely accept a VP or Surgeon General role if offered. This campaign style is his backup plan, but it’s the type of backup plan that he’s willing to protect above his primary stretch goal.
Ben Carson is a good man with good overall intentions. He hasn’t been a very good candidate. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more clear that this ineptitude is by design.
Here’s what got all of this started. It represents what he likely wants to do in the future as well.