Top Ben Carson Staffers Resign Amid Campaign Makeover

Dec 31, 2015
Originally published on December 31, 2015 5:22 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Two senior staff members of Ben Carson's presidential campaign have resigned. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports, the shakeup comes at a time when the retired neurosurgeon's campaign is struggling to regain lost momentum.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: In September and October, Carson was one of the top candidates in the race. He led several Iowa polls and stood near center stage at debates. But after terror attack in Paris and in San Bernardino, the race's focus shifted more and more to foreign policy. That's an area where Carson didn't appear to be as comfortable. Carson's close adviser Armstrong Williams acknowledges the first-time candidate took a hit after those terror attacks. He says voters were looking for, quote, "a war president."

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: Sometimes people associate soft-spokenness with not the kind of leadership we need from someone in times of war. And so I think Dr. Carson's beginning to make people understand that just because he's been soft-spoken, he is willing to show that he can be tough.

DETROW: Now Carson's campaign manager, Barry Bennett, and communications director, Doug Watts, are stepping down. Both men quit. They weren't fired. But for days, Carson had been dropping hints about a big shakeup. On Wednesday, he told Fox News he would make changes to better reflect his own values.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CARSON: With the way that I am, which is not confrontational and attacking other people but who does put out the truth and is transparent...

DETROW: Carson's campaign has never been traditional. It does most of its organizing online. He raised far more money than most other candidates but also spent most of it. In a year where voters are gravitated toward outsiders, Carson hopes he can turn things around and get back near the top of the polls. He has exactly a month to make that happen. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.