Carson’s book tour hiatus spurs doubts on campaign motive
By Evan Lips | October 20, 2015, 19:55 EDT
Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has suspended his campaign to promote a new book, a move that has pundits wondering whether his poll numbers will suffer or if his real purpose in running is to boost his public profile.
Carson currently occupies second place in a crowded GOP field, just five percentage points behind leader Donald Trump, according to the latest national averages compiled by Real Clear Politics. The Baltimore doctor has closed the gap with Trump during the last several weeks, and soared above his rivals in collecting more than $20 million for his campaign between July 1 and Sept. 30. Will halting campaign appearances until Oct. 28, the day of the next debate, to promote his “A More Perfect Union” book wind up hurting him?
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin speculated about Carson’s motives as a candidate in her Right Turn blog, saying his move may leave some supporters with a “bitter taste.”
“Is this all about him? It sure heightens the sense that his campaign takes a back seat to his personal interests and financial ambitions,” Rubin wrote. “Trump and others may capitalize on Carson’s hiatus, stepping up the attacks and savaging him for his absence.”
Presidential campaigns can become a lever to enhance the candidate’s public profile long after the polls have closed. Republican contender Pat Buchanan moved in and out of the White House and media jobs starting in the 1960s and into the 1980s, and then ran for president in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 election cycles, all the while rotating in and out of network and cable television slots.
Some pundits have speculated on the media-related motives of other candidates. Donald Trump is a former reality TV star who leads in polls of likely GOP primary voters. Should he retire from the field, his bid most likely will have boosted his ratings value to future TV productions. And then there are politicians who’ve gone on to media careers, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who became a radio personality after leaving the statehouse. Former Alaska Gov. and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who wrote a best-selling autobiography and jumped into television.
For Carson, a book tour may be a politically savvy endeavor, a report in Politico suggests. It notes that former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich conducted his own mid-campaign book tour in 2011 and did not suffer at the polls as a result. But h didn’t come close to winning the nomination, either.
Gingrich told Politico that the key is to use the book stops to your advantage.
“You’ve got to put them together so they reinforce each other,” Gingrich told the website. “Don’t go to a great book town if it doesn’t help the campaign.”
Carson will be taking a break from his book tour to participate in the Oct. 28 debate, but will resume it immediately afterward and won’t wrap it up until Nov. 5. Legally, Carson may need to differentiate between promoting his book and his candidacy, depending on the source of funding for his travels and events.
The Carson campaign staff won’t take part in the book tour, according to ABC News. Spokesman Doug Watts said the campaign is standing guard against any appearance of “co-mingling.”
Federal campaign finance laws ban candidates from profiting off of campaign resources.