Terry Giles, a close friend and informal adviser of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, says he is “ecstatic” over the former brain surgeon’s recent surge in the polls, but admits one concern.
“You don’t want to peak too soon,” said Giles, who left his role as chairman of Carson’s campaign to assist the effort from the outside.
“I was very comfortable, to be honest with you, when Ben was in top three and four,” Giles said in a Wednesday interview with The Daily Caller. “And that’s been very comfortable. We wanted to be the frontrunner, but, quite honestly, I would’ve probably preferred if that had broken in January.”
It may be too late for that.
A Monmouth University poll released this week has Carson and Donald Trump both tied for first in Iowa at 23 percent. Other national polls show Carson in second, trailing only the New York businessman.
To keep that momentum, Giles said, “there has to be a real shift to people understanding what Ben stands for.”
“And understanding that he really does have specific policies that are incredibly intelligent, and I believe, can turn this country around,” he argued.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, argued a simple theory for why Carson is catching fire. “We’ve been the best organized candidate in Iowa for many months now. He’s spent the time out there. We’ve got county chairs in every county. Hard work is paying off.”
“Dr. Carson’s appeal is so unique, it’s so inspiring. That’s really, really given us a great lift right now,” Bennett said.
While other campaigns are planning big ad buys on the airwaves, Bennett says the Carson campaign plans to focus “a great deal on social media.” Carson has more than 2.6 million fans on Facebook.
“Primarily, because it’s an uncontested lane right now,” Bennett said. “If you’ve got 17 candidates and 17 super PACs on the Republican side trying to buy television in Des Moines in January, no one’s going to cut through. You got to have a unique message and a unique mechanism.”
Bennett said fundraising is picking up. The campaign, he said, raised $6 million dollars in August, which is usually a slow month. “We got our 400,000th donation today,” he said.
But the campaign, he said, does not anticipate battling it out with Trump.
“They’ve been friends for a long time,” Bennett said. “We’re not running against anybody. You know, if Donald Trump wins, we will all be at the convention holding Trump signs.”
While both Trump and Carson are outsiders who have never served in office before, Bennett acknowledged their “styles are just completely opposite of each other.”
“Dr. Carson is not bombastic,” he said. “He doesn’t call people names. He’s much more thoughtful about the way he approaches what he says. So that contrast is soaking through. Clearly, Donald Trump and Ben Carson both agree on the problems. They both agree probably on the solutions. But they talk about the issues very differently.”
In the coming days, Carson is going on a campaign swing along the west coast before the Sept. 16 CNN debate. The candidate is also meeting with former CIA agents, military leaders and health care experts.
“He’s obviously a pretty smart guy,”” Bennett said. “He’s a big reader. So we give him a lot of briefings and text. And then we sit down and we have these parlor discussions, where we bring people in, and he’ll sit for a couple hours.”
“He loves to draw knowledge from them and their experiences,” the campaign manager said. “It’s kind of unique in that we’re not just talking to the Bush national security apparatus. But that’s the way he learns, that’s the way he extracts knowledge the fastest.”
Bennett acknowledges Carson, who has never run for office, is getting more comfortable in the role as a candidate.
“It’s an unnatural habitat for a brain surgeon to have 50 television cameras in his face,” he said. “But he’s getting pretty good at it. He’s got such a warm personality that when that comes across on television, it’s a home run for him.”
As for rolling out policy proposals, that’s where Giles comes in.
The Carson confidante has formed a 501(c)(4) called Extraordinary America with the mission of drafting policy positions that the campaign can rely on. The outfit has been meeting “with some of the best conservative think tanks, some of the best economists in the country, pulling together ideas and thoughts to gel the policies that Ben stands for.”
“I’ve spent hours with Ben talking about this stuff, so I’m doing it in conjunction with what Ben wants,” Giles said.
“At some point, I expect Ben to make a major policy speech or speeches where he describes in detail what his plan will be for turning America around,” Giles said.
For Giles, the 120-day cooling period required by the Federal Election Commission has now expired, meaning the former campaign adviser can legally communicate with the super PACs supporting Carson’s bid.
Giles said he wants to help the three super PACs coordinate their efforts and assist them in raising money.
“I’m hoping there will now be a coordinated approach amongst the super PACs relative to the messaging,” he said.