Donald Trump has faced an unexpected challenger for his spot atop the GOP primary polls in recent weeks. Retired neurosurgeon and conservative activist Ben Carson, another outsider alternative to the Washington establishment, has been surging in the polls. Real Clear Politics shows him in second place for the Republican primary nomination, with 16.8 percent of the vote compared to Trump’s 30.4 percent. Jeb Bush is in third place with 8.2 percent.
Trump has attempted to attack Carson the same way he attacked Bush: by calling him “low energy.” “I don’t think Ben has the energy,” Trump said, according to Business Insider. “Ben is a nice man, but when you’re negotiating against China, and you’re negotiating against these Japanese guys that are going to come against you in waves, and they think we’re all a bunch of jerks because our leaders are so stupid and so incompetent and inept, we need people that are really smart, that have tremendous deal-making skills and that have great, great energy.” It’s a relatively funny insult, but it’s relevant considering Trump has attracted so much attention simply due to his outspokenness and his own energy.
Trump’s attack on Bush was similarly worded. “I don’t think [Bush is] electable,” Trump said in August, according to Politico. “Jeb is a low-energy person. For him to get things done is hard.” The critique definitely impacted Bush’s campaign, as he struggled to counterattack with flimsy insults to Trump’s level of character. Trump even posted a hilarious video on Instagram depicting a woman falling asleep during a Bush speaking engagement.
A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:53am PDT
Bush has since bounced back, joking about his “low energy” on the campaign trail. Still, he’s fallen to third place. Trump's repeated attacks have only seemed to hurt him.
The way in which Carson responded to Trump's insult reveals much about his character, especially compared to Bush. "I recognize that I have plenty of energy,” Carson said, according to The Hill. “You know, operating on people for 10, 12, sometimes for greater than 20 hours at a time, making critical decision after many hours of intense work.” When asked to respond to Trump’s accusation that he is “too nice” to be president, Carson had the following to say: “Well, I don’t think so, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being nice.” He then refused to insult Trump in any manner, despite the media’s prodding.
The level-headed responses Carson has repeatedly given Trump are making voters realize he’s a more reliable, sensible outsider candidate. It also shows the path Carson could take in order to reach more voters. If Trump is selling his campaign on his business prowess, Carson should be playing up his intelligence.
If business prowess is an issue, Carson could also play up his work experience. He also responded to Trump’s insult that his career didn’t prepare him for the White House. “Neurosurgeon is not the only thing that I am, although I will tell you that it requires a lot of knowledge to become a neurosurgeon and you’re not going to have very many dumb people become neurosurgeons,” Carson said. “But, I have also spent decades in the business world and corporate world on the board of Kellogg’s for 18 years, Costco for 16 years, learning both national and international business and dealing with very complex issues — being the chairman of the board of Vaccinogen, a biotech company; starting a national scholarship program, nine of 10 of which fail; and winning major national awards that are only given to one organization in the country.”
Trump may have been the candidate the country needed to disrupt our political structure, to stop relying on career politicians to run the country. He’s tapped into an anger and frustration that many feel with those making the laws in Washington. Yet he’s still little more than an attention-seeking media star, lacking the policy specifics to back up his obnoxious claims. He would most likely be a disastrous president. It’s unclear whether Carson would be a more realistic candidate to enact change in Washington, but at least voters are starting to respect his intelligent, cool-headed character over Trump’s arrogance.
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