(Photo: Georgetown University)
While neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson's "powerful speech" at the National Prayer Breakfast two weeks ago has social conservatives rooting for him to run for president, he is unlikely to get the nod as the GOP's presidential nominee in 2016 if he decides to run, says Georgetown University professor Clyde Wilcox, who works in the school's Department of Government and is an expert on religion and politics.
"It was a pretty powerful speech. I do not think in the end it will make any difference in politics. He is not likely to be a serious candidate for president on the GOP side," wrote Wilcox in an e-mail to The Christian Post on Thursday.
In a follow-up interview with CP on Friday, Wilcox explained his thoughts. "If you look at how nominations work in the Republican Party, it's almost always the person who finished second (in the primaries) the last time that gets it (the nomination)," he said, pointing to John McCain and Mitt Romney as recent examples.
Wilcox likened Carson to conservative political commentator Patrick Buchanan, who in 1992 caused quite a stir when he challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush in the presidential primaries. Buchanan accused Bush, whose popularity was waning, of being too liberal, and although Buchanan gained 38 percent of the votes, he failed to beat Bush.
In what later became known as the culture war speech, Buchanan in his address at the 1992 Republican National Convention said there was a "religious war" going on over America's soul. He said of Bill and Hillary Clinton: "The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America – abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat – that's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God's country."
Wilcox also cited Carson's political inexperience as a factor against his candidacy. "If he says he wants to be President, from my point of view, he doesn't understand how politics works. When was the last time someone was elected President without ever having held public office? It's not an accident that we haven't done it in the last 20 years."
African Americans, he said, are unlikely to be sufficiently convinced to support the Republican Party. "I'm sure a number of African Americans, including friends of mine, would say 'yeah that's true (Carson's speech), but is it enough to make me switch to the Republican Party? I don't think so.'
"He may have a chance of being a vice presidential nominee but president? Probably not," said Wilcox.
The big question, argues the Georgetown professor, is where should Dr. Carson go from making such a big splash? He recommends that Carson should perhaps look into building a movement that would speak to the social conservative voice in both parties.
Wilcox has taught for 20 years in Georgetown University's Department of Government. He writes on a number of topics in American and Comparative politics, including religion and politics, gender politics, public opinion and electoral behavior, campaign finance, and science fiction and politics.