Say Hello to the Newest and Most Hopeless GOP 2016 Candidates
Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina both want to be president—but they're going to be sideshows instead.
The first two things that need to be said when discussing the presidential bids of Dr. Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is that they will both fail. Neither of the duo, who both just announced they are officially entering the race to become the GOP nominee , have of a chance of becoming president, though they may spend a lot of money in the process.
Their failure is assured, but why they will fail is a little more interesting, and it has to do with the candidates themselves, the nature of the political system, and the priorities of the Republican Party.
First, a little background on the two candidates: After becoming the youngest-ever director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Carson built a long and respectable career in medicine; he was the first doctor to separate twins conjoined at the head. His rise to political prominence began at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, where he complained about political correctness, taxes, Obamacare, and other conservative hobbyhorses with Obama sitting on the dais with him. Overnight, he became a Tea Party hero, and he's continued to play to that crowd, comparing progressives to the Nazis and so on.
Fiorina served as the chief executive of HP from 1999 to 2005, becoming the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, though her tenure is widely recognized as having been disastrous for HP, resulting in a more than 50 percent decrease in its stock value by the time she left with a $21 million golden parachute.
The two relative political outsiders—neither of them has ever held office before—have starkly different strategies. Carson tends to find the far-right edge of the GOP and cannonball off of it; so far, he's staked out positions on evolution, climate change, gay rights, healthcare, and immigration that are brazen even for the Tea Party. Plying a different brand of conservatism, Fiorina is trumpeting her business acumen — on Good Morning America, she said she's the right candidate because she "understand[s] how the economy actually works. I understand the world; who's in it."
Fiorina is also the GOP's Benghazi candidate, repeatedly trying to hammer inevitable Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton for her role in that incident. That can be seen as part of her effort to establish herself as a sort of antidote to Clinton—a move that takes advantage of her position as the only woman running for the Republican nomination.
Both Carson and Fiorina are in the bottom rung of candidates in Real Clear Politics' latest polling average. Iowa is still a year away, so those numbers are pretty much meaningless at this point, but climbing out of that hole will mean more than overcoming their individual quirks that might relegate them to the fringe—it will require them to run good campaigns, and it's far from clear either one can do that.
Carson has never run for office before, and Fiorina's only campaign, a 2010 bid for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat in California, resulted in a ten-point loss. That campaign is mostly remembered for producing one of the worst political ads ever made. That's in stark contrast to their main opponents, who are all either sitting Senators (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul), sitting governors (Scott Walker, Chris Christie), or former multi-term governors (Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee). They'll be competing with those candidates not just for votes but for deep-pocketed donors, meaning they'll have to convince members of the 1 percent that, despite never having won political office before, they can outmaneuver Hillary Clinton—arguably the savviest politician in the United States—in a general election.
As Fiorina made clear by comparing herself to Clinton on the day of her campaign announcement, the Republican primary is as much about establishing your chances of topping the Dem favorite as it is beating your fellow conservatives. In that respect, Carson and Fiorina are as competitive as you or I or your cat would be. In an already crowded GOP field, they join the handful of likely candidates, also including Bobby Jindal and John Kasich, who don't even have a sliver of a shadow of a chance. All they have to look forward to is a concession speech after a few primary states, a return to their "regular" millionaire lives, and a nice slot on Fox News or the Blaze.
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