RANDLEMAN, N.C. — Ben Carson raised more than $500,000 after his controversial comments that he wouldn’t support a Muslim for president, campaign communications director Doug Watts said Monday.
Those comments, made more than a week ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” gave the campaign a “partial bump” in fundraising that resulted in Carson raising “about $6-700,000 at the time,” which contributed to an overall $10 million haul for the campaign in September.
Watts said the candidate has raised nearly $20 million this quarter, and an aggregate of $30 million since launching his campaign.
“There really is a broadening of the base that’s given us access to a whole lot of people,” Watts added, noting many of Carson’s supporters and donors are first-time participants in the political process.
Carson’s comments on Muslims may have boosted his fundraising, but they prompted widespread criticism, even from some of his GOP primary opponents. The candidate attempted to clarify his stance last week, saying he’d be open to a Muslim president if they renounced Shariah Law, but was asked about the issue again on the Sunday talk shows this weekend and didn’t back down from his stance.
Asked Monday during a stop at a camp for children with health challenges in North Carolina whether he felt the comments had contributed to his rise in the polls, Carson didn’t deny it.
“There’s no question that the people of America recognize that America is a unique place, and I don’t think that anybody wants to give that away. We want to be fair to everybody, but we certainly don’t want to change it into something else,” he said.
Though Carson remains at the top of the pack in polling, he hasn’t yet gained the support of any of the billionaire GOP donors that can ensure a candidate remains competitive in a wildly expensive primary fight.
And the campaign itself is still relatively small, though Watts said Monday they have four regional field directors and will be expanding in the coming months. He said “we have a path” to the nomination and pointed in particular at “the broader Christian base, not just Evangelicals” and women over 40 years old as Carson’s base of support.
“We’re getting a very broad and deep campaign — that’s our focus,” Watts said.
But with the latest NBC/WSJ poll, out this weekend, showing Carson nearly tied with frontrunner Donald Trump, taking 20 percent support to Trump’s 21 percent support, Watts acknowledged the campaign needs to remain realistic and keep an eye on the first nominating contest, in Iowa in February.
“We’re feeling very good, very strong — maybe a little too strong,” he said. “We have to keep this pace up for another five months till the first votes are cast.”