Ben Carson may be the most openly religious candidate in the still-crowded GOP presidential field, but his poll numbers have recently taken a slide down into the single digits and he's facing a David-vs.-Goliath battle to hold on.
On Thursday, the New York Times gave us a view of what's happening behind the scenes in a campaign that once soared. As you would imagine, religion has a lot to do with this story and, suddenly, the tone of the coverage has become less snarky.
DES MOINES -- As Ben Carson got ready for a television interview beside the pulpit of a Pentecostal church this week, campaign aides asked his supporters to move across the room and sit in the empty pews behind him.
They wanted the campaign gathering to appear full, but few of the voters who had turned up for the event could hear the soft-spoken Mr. Carson explain how he is on the upswing in Iowa. Some wandered away in disappointment.
“I thought he would be louder,” said Jody Kunanan, who drove from Ankeny, Iowa, to see Mr. Carson. Still, she remains hopeful that he will somehow pull out a victory in the state next week despite polling in the single digits.
Such is life for the Carson campaign these days, where disappointment and frustration have overtaken last year’s sense of optimism. … “It is much better to do what’s right and lose an election than to do what’s politically expedient and lose your soul,” Mr. Carson said with a sense of resignation during a Tuesday night event that mixed a campaign pitch with a Christian prayer service.
We learn later that the Pentecostal church is an Assembly of God congregation. The piece goes on to say he’s hoping to pick up the evangelical Christians and social conservatives who once went for Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike Huckabee. There are quotes from religious Iowans about praying for the Carson campaign and information about how evangelical leaders are opting for Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz and how there’s a new leadership team in place after Carson's original team fell apart.
I found the piece enlightening and rather sympathetic to Carson.
But there was one notable omission. I would have liked to have seen a mention of one of the more interesting additions in the Carson team -- A. Larry Ross, probably the most high-profile of the evangelical world's public-relations professionals.
Carson's hire of Ross may be too little, too late, and some in the comments section were a bit surprised that Ross agreed to take the job. Apparently, this is the first time Ross's company has done a presidential campaign and perhaps Ross saw this as an opportunity. In fact, Advertising Age found fault with Carson for bringing on Ross and others because of their "little political experience."
If you read this account from Mother Jones, there has been a lot of interference in the PR part of the campaign from long-time Carson friend Armstrong Williams. Did Ross insist on certain parameters, i.e. that Carson run all media exposure by him -- instead of Armstrong -- in advance, before he took the job?
Whatever the case, Ross is tweeting about Carson nonstop. Other religion-and-Carson material posted recently includes this piece in the Christian Post about Carson asking pastors to endorse him and a Christianity Today piece partly on Carson’s views on the Second Coming, a doctrinal issue crucial to Carson’s fellow Seventh-day Adventists.
The Times hasn't always had much good to say about Carson but this piece felt fair to me. It's not news the campaign may want to hear, but it avoid the snark of other news accounts and made out Carson as a tragic and almost noble figure.
The lead photo is from Larry Ross's Twitter account. Larry Ross is shown in the upper left corner of the photo on Ben Carson's right. The secondary photo of Mr. Ross is from the same Twitter account.