Seeing Is Believing: Ben Carson 2016
I would find it easy to discount Ben Carson in a Republican presidential field that will likely grow to nearly 20, if I hadn’t spent thousands of hours over the past two years witnessing what he’s capable of.
As an online fundraiser for the 2016 Committee (formerly the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee) I’ve watched Ben Carson’s rise from political obscurity to presidential candidate. I’ve watched “Run, Ben, Run” become a rallying cry for the largest grass-roots-driven presidential draft movement since the Barry Goldwater days.
As the Daily Caller has pointed out, Carson’s One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future had sold about 355,000 copies about 10 months after its release. More copies of Carson’s One Nation have been sold than every other declared candidate’s latest release, including Hillary Clinton’s, combined.
The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee (Run, Ben, Run) super PAC spent much of the past year scrambling to get this book into the hands of supporters. In fact, interest in Carson’s One Nation was probably our biggest source of new recruits to the draft movement.
I was convinced that Carson’s ideas had resonated with hundreds of thousands of Americans in an unprecedented way for one reason: Every time we thought we could collectively take a breath from helping to promote One Nation and directing small armies of Carson supporters to local book signings, we were flooded with emails from readers who wanted 10, 25, 50, 100 or more copies to distribute to their friends.
The bottom-up approach that fueled distribution of so many books fueled our online fundraising program as well. The Carson draft movement utilized its more technically savvy volunteers to answer emails and troubleshoot website difficulties or problems in donating. The passion of online donors clashing with the passion of volunteers on the other end of their questions was a recipe for continued donations.
So often, I see campaigns and super PACs offer their donors nothing more than a bounce-back auto-responder with generic “thank you” emails and maybe even placement on a telemarketing list. We did things differently.
I’m convinced that raising $2 million online would not have been possible without the authentic and genuine interaction between prospective donors and follow-up volunteers on the other end.
Since we launched that domain, the catchiness of “Run, Ben, Run” as a newfound political mantra didn’t go unnoticed. It didn’t take long for supporters of other candidates to adopt a variation of it. We’ve seen “Run, Liz, Run,” “Run, Mitt, Run” and “Run, Ted, Run” all used in one way or another by supporters of those candidates. “Run (insert three- or four-letter name here) Run” has spawned countless hashtags, chants and even music-video lyrics throughout the pre-primary season that we’re now on the last leg of.
In total, “Run, Ben, Run” raised more than $16 million from 150,000+ donors, who made it possible to recruit top-notch field staff and regional directors, open offices in early-voting states, distribute hundreds of thousands of campaign materials and recruit 30,000 volunteers.
Carson didn’t ask for a presidential-draft movement to line up behind him. There was certainly no collaboration or coordination whatsoever. He had every intention of retiring and working on his golf game after decades of saving lives and inspiring so many.
His aversion to the political spotlight is why he’s found himself in it.
I’m sure he never imagined that a super PAC supporting his potential candidacy would attract more donors and more dollars raised than Ready for Hillary, while spawning a momentum that only grew stronger.
As the draft effort officially ends and his official campaign begins, there’s no question that Ben Carson’s entrance into the race has strengthened the GOP field immeasurably.
Ben Walters is the Internet fundraising manager at Eberle Communications Group who led the online fundraising program for National Draft Ben Carson for President (Run, Ben, Run). The super PAC recently changed its name to The 2016 Committee now that Carson is officially a candidate for president.