- - Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Dr. Carson,

I’m writing this to you as someone with a national platform who also lives in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, and is connected with many of the key activists here (as well as several other key activists across the country).

Let me start with some exciting news.
There is a lot of enthusiasm about your potential candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. In fact, I get asked about you more than anyone. The American people want fresh faces, bold ideas and plain talk — essentially what you did at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. You represent each of those things, but also possess an inspiring life story as well. In many ways you are the very embodiment of an American Dream most still want to believe in, but are starting to believe is no longer achievable for our children.

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Therefore, the fact you’ve never held elected office is a plus, not a minus. Not to mention two of our most beloved presidents, Lincoln and Eisenhower, had never even won a statewide election before being elected nationally. As you know, our current political class has a lot of experience, but is overwhelmingly unpopular at the moment. Despite their experience they can’t secure the border, they can’t secure Iraq, they can’t secure Ferguson, Mo., they can’t fix Obamacare, and they can’t get the economy going. Frankly, other than shake down K Street and lobbyists for big bucks, most of us aren’t exactly sure what they can do.

Furthermore, some early primary polls have Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul the current favorite for the 2016 GOP nomination. He’s yet to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate, but nobody is questioning his credentials. So if a guy that was running a Kentucky ophthalmology clinic four years ago is considered qualified to be the CEO of these United States, I’m not sure why the guy that used to oversee the pediatric neurosurgeon department at one of the world’s foremost hospitals wouldn’t be as well.

However, it’s not your lack of experience holding elected office that threatens your candidacy, but your lack of experience navigating the political process itself that does. Thus, we now come to the main point of my letter.

You may think you know what you’re getting into on an intellectual level, but until you’ve actually experienced it you have no idea. Sort of like how you probably had med students that thought they understood neurosurgery well enough intellectually, but it wasn’t until they held the tools to slice open someone’s cranium in their hands for the first time that stuff suddenly got real. While I’ve never run for president myself, I know several people who have or plan to on a first-name basis. Living in Iowa has allowed me to cover the process as closely as anyone the past two cycles.

Here are three lessons I’ve learned that I’m now voluntarily passing on to you, because we need more non-traditional candidates like yourself to shake up the stale and corrupted status quo. I haven’t decided whether or not I will support you, but at the very least I support what you represent having a prominent voice in our country. I hope you take these suggestions in the spirit they are intended.

1) Whom you hire to run your operation will determine your fate on the campaign trail — not you.

Other then never having run for office, you have the ideal profile for a national candidate in this environment. That’s good, but that also means there’s nowhere to go but down. This will be a strong GOP field of alpha males, and they’re not just going to go quietly into that good night to make room for you. They will attack you like you’ve never been attacked before. And then if it looks like you’re a serious threat for the nomination, you can expect the Left to hit you with the full-bore Sarah Palin treatment. Because whether you’re a woman or a racial minority, if you threaten their phony victimology narrative you must be taken out lest the American people learn once and for all the emperor has no clothes. There is no possible way you can be prepared for that, so it’s imperative you surround yourself with capable people who are.

Also, you need to understand who the major players are on the ground in the key primary states. Otherwise you’ll speak to lots of groups, but miss out on the group of people who can actually move boots on the ground for you. For example, you’re coming to my home state to speak to a county party fundraiser. That’s good, but you missed the vitally important “Family Leadership Summit” held on Aug. 9th. Almost every key activist you have a chance with in Iowa was there and you were not. You gave several of your primary rivals a free shot at them.

Do you know who you have to talk to on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire  and South Carolina? If you think the path to the nomination is simply going to local or statewide party events you’re mistaken. They play a role, for sure, but there are lots of grassroots activists who never attend those events you’re missing out on if that’s all you do. That’s why you need a staff around you that knows who the players are, otherwise you’re going to raise a lot of money, and then waste a lot of money, too.  

If you don’t have people around you that know how to navigate those three early states you’re done. No one who didn’t win two of the first three early states has ever won the nomination, and you won’t either.

2) Truly know what you believe.

Yes, you are an inspirational figure. But we remain an ideologically-driven party. Most people become Republicans because they believe in things, not because of identity politics. While your story will give you ample time to sell people on your candidacy, sooner or later you’ll have to prove your ideological bona fides.

For example, you’ve given conflicting opinions on two of the most important issues in a GOP primary: the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life.

You told Glenn Beck that the Second Amendment may not apply in some urban areas, but also wrote a column for The Washington Times accurately explaining why our Founding Fathers gave it to us in the first place. So which is it?

You’ve called the killing of unborn children “murder,” which it is, but then you also praised a friend of yours running for U.S. Senate in Oregon because she was “pragmatic” for not opposing it. So which is it?

These are issues you will be seriously vetted on. Have you truly game-planned out your belief system? Is it defensible, principled and consistent? Have you done so on every other issue? Do you understand “American Exceptionalism,” and can you articulate its origins and articulate them to a contemporary audience?

3) Have a plan for what you want to do if elected.

Since you have no record, we have nothing to hold you accountable to. That’s good in one respect, because you can’t be pinned down, but that also means you need to have a plan for what you would do if elected. Otherwise we don’t have a reason to vote for you. The charm offensive will only take you so far.

What are your main issue priorities? Do you have a plan for carrying them out? Can you be specific without boring us with too many details? What would a Carson presidency look like? Do not leave those questions open to interpretation.

In conclusion, while I believe you would be an unbeatable general election candidate no matter who the Democrats nominated, even if they reincarnated JFK, if you don’t learn how to successfully navigate the primary process you’re going to be done faster than you can say Fred Thompson. I am writing this letter now because that doesn’t have to happen. I hope it’s of help to you.

I join many others in looking forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.

(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)   

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