With an ever-dwindling chance to win the Republican nomination, Ben Carson is pledging to stay in the race for the long haul, without any apparent consideration for the tens of thousands of dollars his Secret Service protection is costing taxpayers everyday.
Along with Donald Trump, Carson was awarded Secret Service protection in early November, around the time the famed pediatric neurosurgeon was riding high in the polls, even topping the billionaire real estate mogul in some national and Iowa surveys. But since then, Carson’s fortunes have fallen considerably, culminating in his distant fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses and an even more distant eighth place finish in the New Hampshire primary.
During testimony before Congress in 2008, then-Secret Service director Mark Sullivan reported that protecting a presidential contender, like Carson, can cost $38,000 a day or more at this stage in the campaign. Former Secret Service director Ralph Basham told The Washington Post in September that the cost was likely now more than $40,000 a day. At that rate, if Carson decides to stay in the race all the way to the Republican National Convention, even with no chance of actually winning the nomination, it would cost taxpayers around $6,000,000 to protect him.
And Carson has intimated he might do just that. On Fox News’ “Hannity” Wednesday night, Carson pledged to stay in the race as long as he has the support of “we the people.’
“I was petitioned by the people — I’m a member of ‘we the people,’” Carson said. “And as long as I have the support of ‘we the people,’ I will continue to go, particularly with them saying please don’t drop out.”
Asked after Saturday’s New Hampshire Republican primary debate whether he weighs the cost of his Secret Service protection when considering whether to continue on in the race, Carson told The Daily Caller, “Let me put in this way, I would rather be alive than dead.”
But the question isn’t whether Carson should risk his life, but whether he factors what he is costing taxpayers when deciding whether he continues a campaign that increasingly appears quixotic. Asked by TheDC in an email to define exactly how much support from “we the people” Carson needs to see to stay in the race, Carson communications director A. Larry Ross didn’t quite quantify it.
“It is Dr. Carson’s intent to continue his campaign as long as he has support,” he said.
“Dr. Carson is a citizen candidate, and the only one who was actually drafted to run by a grassroots movement of hundreds of thousands of individuals,” he went on. “The truth is that ‘We the People’ are still looking for a leader with faith, integrity and common sense. He will remain in the race to give them an opportunity to have their voices heard and continue to pick up delegates.”
Speaking specifically to the question of whether Dr. Carson weighs how much his Secret Service detail is costing taxpayers in deciding whether to continue on in the race, Ross said: “As for the Secret Service, we rely on the expertise of the U.S.S.S. to determine who receives protection, and you would need to direct any questions to them for response on that dimension of Dr. Carson’s campaign.”
A similar issue arose with Newt Gingrich’s presidential candidacy in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Gingrich continued to get Secret Service protection into May 2012, long after he had any real chance of winning the nomination.
The Secret Service does not decide which candidates to provide protection to or when. A decision to provide a candidate Secret Service protection is made by the secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with a bi-partisan panel of lawmakers on Capitol Hill after a request from a presidential campaign.