Inside the Beltway: Pining for Ben Carson

The warm glow of public appeal for Ben Carson is growing after his recent provocative speech at the National Prayer Breakfast before an audience that included President Obama. The pediatric neurosurgeon cut a fearless, straightforward path through health care, taxes and American woes, prompting The Wall Street Journal to run an immediate op-ed titled “Ben Carson for President,” declaring that Dr. Carson “may not be politically correct, but he’s closer to correct than we’ve heard in years.”

Many agree, and have acted on the sentiment. Already Internet domains have been filed with Register.com, the official depository of new websites, including “BenCarson2016.com” and “Bencarsonforpresident.com,” among others.

Dr. Ben Carson for President” and other fan sites on Facebook now cater to some 57,000 admirers, who wonder if their hero would be known as “Dr. President” or “Mr. President” in proper protocols. They applaud “Gifted Hands,” the 2009 movie inspired by Dr. Carson’s life story starring Cuba Gooding. Jr. They laud the Carson Scholars Fund, which the doctor and his wife, Candy, founded to ease “the education crisis in the U.S.,” awarding more than $5.2 million in scholarships to the young and studious.

Meanwhile, another cultural indicator suggests that indeed, there’s some Carsonmania stirring in the citizenry: merchandise. As in “Ben Carson for President” merchandise, emerging at such online purveyors as CafePress.com.

“In previous elections, the sales of merchandise like T-shirts or bumperstickers proved a solid barometer in gauging voter interest. Though it’s early, we’re already seeing intriguing indicators for 2016,” communication director Marc Cowlin tells Inside the Beltway.

“As for Dr. Carson, we have four designs active for him right now. It’s not overwhelming yet, but it’s there. As for current headliners, the breakaway favorites are Hillary Clinton for Democrats, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for Republicans,” Mr. Cowlin adds.

SEQUESTER JITTERS

When the big, fat, hulking, mysterious $1.2 trillion in spending cuts start to descend on March 1, the Democrats will be sitting pretty, perched in the most advantageous position. Right? Wrong. A careful new study from Bloomberg Government upends that logic. The analysis shows that Democratic congressional districts will be harder hit by the military cuts than Republican ones, and that eight of the top 10 districts that will experience the deepest cuts are represented by Democrats.

Uh-oh.

Here’s the logic, according to government defense analyst Robert Levinson, who notes that “Democrats won 47 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives in the 2012 election, but 58 percent of the military’s fiscal 2012 prime contract spending went to companies performing work in those districts. Among the top districts, military spending in those represented by Democrats averaged $893 million this year, vs. $573 million in those represented by Republicans.”

A RUMSFELD BLESSING

“Best wishes to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he prepares to depart his post. His opposition to severe defense cuts is admirable.”

— Donald H. Rumsfeld, a predecessor, in a tweet.

JEB’S BRAND OF COMPASSION

When politicians want to position themselves on a significant spot in the political landscape, they write a book. Such is the case with Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor, popularly titled “the next Bush,” has written “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution” with constitutional litigator Clint Bolick, due on book shelves March 5. The authors deliver two core principles: “immigration is vital to America’s future, fueling its growth, vibrancy and creativity; but any enduring solution must follow America’s laws,” publisher Threshhold Books says in advance.

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