Many of us here at RedState have never taken Ben Carson’s campaign seriously. This is not to say Carson isn’t a good man with a wonderful and inspiring message but he has just never given the impression that he actually wants to be president rather than wanting to run for president. When third quarter campaign finance reports were release, I posted on Carson’s extraordinary burn-rate. In an age of digital communications and social media and, as Trump has demonstrated, earned (that would be free) media the Carson campaign showed the signs of being a direct mail machine. One direct mail house was paid $500,000 for a campaign that brought in $40,000. At that time, I commented that the main purpose of Carson’s fundraising appeared to be to sustain his fundraising operation.
I am not alone on that count. In late October, Leon questioned whether Carson was running for president or using his run to sell books and raise his media profile. The Atlantic pointed out the huge overlap between Carson 2016 and Gingrich 2012 in staff and the similarities in fundraising profiles and noted that Gingrich, also, was thought to have skirted a fine line in using a putative presidential campaign as a publicity tool.
Now the Wall Street Journal has taken a peek at a non-public campaign finance report and it looks like Carson is still burning cash like there is no tomorrow but the donations are drying up:
October was the best month of Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. A nine-point lead in Iowa by Halloween had his top aide crowing on Facebook about “Carson fever” gripping the country.
Behind the scenes, things weren’t going as well.
Internal campaign budget documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show a political operation hemorrhaging cash. Mr. Carson’s team raised $8.8 million in October and spent $9.5 million—putting the retired neurosurgeon’s effort under water months before the first early-state voters caucus and cast ballots.
The budget documents also undermine the Carson campaign’s Nov. 1 claim that it raised $10 million in October—a figure Mr. Carson himself talked up on Twitter.
Keep in mind, October was the month after the public reports I commented on. At that time, Carson had about $11.3 million. The WSJ report means Carson ended October with about $10.6 million cash on hand. If expenses are straight-lined, he will close out the year with barely $8 million. But funding collapses rarely move in a straight line. Carson was heavily dependent upon small donors and those donations started drying up in October then Carson’s collapse in the polls plus Christmas holiday expenses would hint at a disastrous fundraising period. Carson will probably go into the first primary with barely enough money to eek out a presence. At this rate, by the first March primaries Carson will be out of the race.
Is that unexpected? I have my doubts.
Several of us have posted that the Carson campaign, back in October, was acting a lot like the dog that had finally caught the car. Carson wasn’t getting more proficient on issues and he isn’t an unintelligent man. This indicates that he simply wasn’t applying himself. Then there was the brief suspension of the campaign for a book tour. When you put that with the nature of direct mail fundraising a different picture emerges. The one thing that direct mail does is build a donor list and donors can be easily transitioned into fans and customers. Direct mail doesn’t make much sense for a presidential campaign but it makes a lot of sense if you are building a Carson brand that is intended to endure for years. That’s why a signed sketch of Ben Carson makes such a great direct mail piece.