Why Ben Carson is the new Republican hotness

The 2016 GOP candidate is speeding ahead in the polls. Can it last?

Ben Carson.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

America — or at least a healthy chunk of the Republican electorate — is apparently ready for Ben Carson. While Donald Trump has been soaking up all the media attention of late, leaving the professional politicians to sink lower and lower, Carson has been surfing in Trump's wake, all the way to second place in most of the polls. He's now the only Republican other than Trump who averages double digits, and in a new NBC poll, he comes in a strong second to Trump in Iowa, garnering 22 percent support to Trump's 29 percent. Furthermore, in most polls Carson is the Republican candidate who gets the most positive favorability ratings; even Republicans who are supporting someone else like him. So what's the attraction to Carson? Can he actually last?

The short and easy answer is that Republicans are drawn to Carson because they're looking for outsiders, and he's as outside politics as you can be. A retired neurosurgeon, Carson has no political experience whatsoever, so he's able to claim accurately that he knows virtually nothing about the job he's trying to get. Carson is also a deeply religious Seventh-Day Adventist, which is attractive to evangelical Republicans (and particularly important in Iowa, where a majority of GOP caucus-goers are evangelicals). His life story — a rise from poverty to becoming a heralded pediatric neurosurgeon — is undoubtedly inspiring. But it goes even farther.

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.