The perhaps somewhat surprising current Republican darling is neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who's polling second nationally and is tied with Donald Trump at 23% in all-important Iowa, the Hill reports. No other Republican candidates are even close to those numbers, and Carson supporters believe it's not surprising at all and high time the country starts seeing him like an actual threat to get the nomination. "The press has never taken him seriously," a former campaign manager says. "Now they have no choice but to talk about him." Donations to Carson's campaign have doubled since the first debate, and the crowds he's drawn recently are second to only Trump.
When asked to explain Carson's appeal, campaign manager Barry Bennett tells the Washington Post the candidate is "the smartest man I have ever met." He says Carson's intelligence and leadership qualities will make up for his lack of experience, and the biggest hurdle to him winning the nomination is simply "getting some time at the microphone." But, CNN reports Carson's personal political history—he told the network he was once a "pretty left-wing Democrat"—could hurt him closer to the nomination. Regardless, the surging campaign remains confident. "As nice as he is, Dr. Carson is very competitive and believes he can win," a Carson campaign strategist tells the Hill. "Ask anyone he's played pool with."