UPDATE - The Carson campaign issues a quasi-denial, strongly refuting the notion that he's "suspended" his campaign, while conceding that he is actively involved in book events this month. This development mitigates some of the concerns discussed below, but the decision to maintain to book promotion schedule while running for president still raises questions of judgment and priorities.
This man is in second place nationally, and tied for first if you believe a few recent polls. He's steadily gained momentum and ground on Donald Trump, and now he's going to capitalize on his momentum by...stepping away from the campaign trail for two weeks for a hybrid fundraising push/book tour. ABC News reports:
Republican presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson has put his public campaign events on hold for two more weeks to go on book tour for his new tome “A More Perfect Union” and catch up on fundraising events. The campaign has been careful to separate campaign events and the book tour, and doesn’t want to classify the tour as related to the campaign in any way. This week he is catching up on fundraising events and will be back on his book tour next week making stops in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. So for the next two weeks, Carson won't be appearing at any public "campaign events." Carson will be going back and forth between campaign fundraising events and book tour events over the next two weeks...The campaign says the next time they will appear publicly with Carson will be the day of the next GOP debate on Oct. 28. His last public campaign event was Oct. 2.
Note well: Carson isn't stepping away from the campaign for two weeks. He's stepping away from the campaign for two more weeks, having been off the trail since the beginning of the month -- over which time he's gained in the polls. Just look at RCP's trend line. How are we feeling about this, Republicans? For the prosecution, Red State's Leon Wolf:
You tell me that there is any other way to interpret this information. Here is Ben Carson, who is in a position that he is the proverbial dog who has almost caught the car. He’s actually leading Trump in one national poll and in all the others he has pulled into a statistical tie for the national lead. This is the best chance he will have to grab the momentum of this race and cement himself as a serious front runner. If Ben Carson wanted the job of being President, there is no way that a book tour would prevent him from doing everything in his power to expand his campaign right now and to take over the lead for good from Donald Trump. He would be using these two weeks to do as many in person appearances as possible – appearances which have, by and large, been responsible for his surge in the polls to date. I have suspected from the beginning that Ben Carson was using this Presidential campaign to raise his personal profile so that he could provide himself with a more comfortable retirement on the book writing and FoxNews pundit circuit – and that’s perfectly fine and I don’t begrudge him that. Good for him for realizing that Mike Huckabee was a pretty shrewd businessman in 2008.
For the defense -- sort of -- is Allahpundit, who eventually concedes the Carson's play betrays bad political instincts:
The guy’s campaigning, for the moment at least, in true 21st-century style, using mass media and controversy to keep him in front of voters. He won’t be able to rely on that long-term — Iowans need to be reassured periodically of how special they are with face time — but for a few weeks? If you were Carson, given how well things have been going lately and how far out the window the rules of normal presidential politics are this year, why wouldn’t you think you could get away with a little break for a book tour? ... If this is all about making money for Carson, wouldn’t a smart guy like him quickly realize that he’s better off long-term doing his level best to try to win the nomination instead of undertaking a risky pause right now that might conceivably kill his momentum? The better he does with his campaign, the higher his profile will rise, and the more demand there’ll be for him if/when he ultimately falls short — TV shows, book deals, speaking engagements. Investing two weeks in his book tour right now instead of his campaign arguably isn’t just a bad move politically, it’s a bad move financially... I think Carson’s motives in doing this might be pure, but as a simple PR matter, it’s inexplicable.
AP's insight into Carson's mentality strikes me as correct. The traditional political rulebook has been tossed overboard this cycle -- hence longstanding frontrunner Donald Trump. For weeks, Carson has avoided actual campaigning while raising money at a strong clip and keeping himself in the headlines via controversial statements and television appearances. This approach hasn't hurt him in the slightest among primary voters; just the opposite, in fact. And it's not as if this type of thing is unprecedented: Herman Cain used his flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign as a vehicle to sell books in 2011, the same year in which Newt Gingrich embarked on a luxury cruise of the Greek isles. As an active presidential candidate. Ultimately, neither man came close to sniffing the GOP nomination. A cautionary tale for Carson, perhaps? He obviously doesn't think so. I don't necessarily concur with Leon's conclusion that Carson, an honorable man in my book, is revealing himself to be a self-promoting grifter looking to make a buck off of his raised profile.
Nevertheless, his decision to spend the better part of a month hawking a book while other candidates are working hard in pursuit of the most consequential job on the planet does send deeply problematic signals. This isn't about what Carson can "get away with." It's about priorities and judgment. If you're an undecided Republican voter (or a Carson donor, for that matter), what does it say to you that one of the top contenders in the race has decided that the full-time job of seeking the presidency of the United States can essentially be placed on the back burner for weeks on end? What does that choice telegraph about that candidate's seriousness of purpose and preparedness for high office, regardless of whether it's damaged him in the short term? What does it indicate about the clarity of that candidate's strategic thinking and political instincts? Remember, Carson is a total political novice. This is his first campaign. If he wins the Republican nomination, he'll be competing on the biggest political stage in the world, against a ruthless, well-funded, and media-aided opposition. Is he hungry for that fight and ready to perform for the brightest lights? If nothing else, this book detour raises all of these questions, none of which reflect particularly well on Dr. Carson, sadly.