Dr. Ben Carson announced his candidacy for president of the United States Monday, making him the first Seventh-day Adventist to ever run for America's highest office. Dr. Carson had planned to announce at an event in his home town, Detroit Michigan, but changed his plans Monday to be with his mother Sonya Carson, who is critically ill in Dallas, Texas. Instead, Carson announced that he was running in an exclusive interview with CBS affiliate WKRC's National Correspondent Jeff Barnd.
Running as a Republican contender, Carson was the first GOP candidate to announce an exploratory committee, and among the last candidates to officially announce his candidacy. The long gap between the two events allowed Carson to raise campaign money without the restrictions placed on formal candidates.
Carson has attracted a large following with the most conservative members of the Republican Party, making him a challenger to candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who also hope to woo right-wing voters. He has made his Christian faith central to his running for president, often citing God's plan for his life as a reason for running.
But despite his following among conservatives, how viable a candidate is he? The positions he has carved out on issues from Health Care reform to same-sex marriage have put Carson in political territory far enough outside the American mainstream that his run is unlikely to garner serious support from any but the most conservative Americans. If his platform were not so marginal, he would still face fierce competition in a stacked Republican primary field against well-established political figures like Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and a slew of other hopefuls, some widely-known, others not.
Beyond the crowded 2016 race, Carson faces challenges of his own making. BuzzFeed reported in early January that Carson plagiarized large portions of his 2012 book, "America The Beautiful," an allegation Carson's camp denied. Carson's publisher looked into the claims. A week later, National Review wrote about Caron's troubling connections with multi-level peer-marketing supplment manufacturer Mannatech, whose claims of curing many diseases and ailments landed the company in a false-advertising lawsuit. Carson served as a pitch man for the company. Last week, a Baptist minister's group rescinded its invitation to Dr. Carson as a speaker over his Adventist views--specifically Adventist denial of a literal, eternal hell, acceptance of all people as God's children, and Saturday Sabbath observance.
Carson shot to fame in 2013 when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D. C. and criticized President Obama's policies and "political correctness" to the president's face. Carson also spoke at a Prayer Breakfast during the Clinton Administration in 1997.
In March, Buzzfeed opined that Carson's political ambitions might sully his reputation as a heroic figure. Carson rose from a life of poverty in Detroit to become a nationally-celebrated peadiatric neurosurgeon. In 2008, Carson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Though it seems unlikely at this point, if Carson can turn his popularity among conservatives into a viable candidacy and win the Republican nomination, he would then face a general election battle against a Democratic rival. At this point, Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner, but much could change between now and 2016.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6789