Trump's Vice-President? Ben Carson vs Hillary Clinton

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Ben Carson dropped out of the 2016 race

Let me correct that: The media (conservative, establishment, mainstream, liberal or otherwise) is not talking about Ben Carson. Pollsters are ignoring him and he is rarely included in any listing of potential Republican candidates. His growing popularity among conservative grassroots activists and faith-based voters is mistakenly being ignored. But this may actually be an advantage for Carson if he does end up running for President.

He certainly doesn't want to ascend too early, and faithfully building ground support the way he has been could pay huge big in the long run. Perhaps most telling is how Carson matches up to Hillary Clinton in many ways, despite having much lower name recognition and without a major establishment body of support, two advantages Clinton enjoys. Consider how Carson has kept pace with Clinton in a number of areas that he wouldn't be expected to.

Hard Choices vs One Nation

Hillary's 2014 memoir and subsequent book tour was supposed to be her re-introduction to the political scene ahead of an expected 2016 presidential run. But the book was poorly-reviewed and, expectation-wise, a very poor seller. According to Publisher's Weekly, Choices has sold 201,000 hardcover copies after 6 weeks of release. The mega-million-dollar book advance meant the publisher intended to sell quite a bit closer to her first memoir, Living History, which sold more than double  the copies in a single week than what Choices has done in six.

In a Huffington Post piece meant to defend Hillary's poor-by-her-standards sales, the author noted that "Clinton's two weeks of sales top the total sales to date of books by Paul, Rubio, Bush, Ryan, Walker and Huckabee -- combined." Of course, one name of 2016 rivals was missing: Ben Carson. (There were multiple versions of the same article saying the same thing, and they all neglected Carson who should have been pretty easy to spot considering he had been listed right next to her - either below or now above - on the sales charts for over a month.)

So what of the retired neurosurgeon and his 2014 patriotic offering One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future? After nine weeks overall, including a few at number one, Carson has sold over 191,000 copies. The way both books have trended (Choices has been dropping 40% every week, while One Nation increased its volume and jumped 2 spots ahead of Choices in it's 9th week), it's very likely that Carson will end the year with more copies sold than Hillary. And, like Hillary, Carson has outsold the recent efforts of almost all of his potential 2016 Republican rivals combined, including poll-toppers Rand Paul (10,000 copies) and Jeb Bush (<5,000 copies sold).

PAC Fundraising

Ready for Hillary is a PAC that was formed by Clinton allies in January of 2013 following the start of President Obama's second term. After nearly 1.5 years of existence, the operation has raised just over $8.2M. This isn't bad, but it certainly is not great when almost every political force on the left, minus some Elizabeth Warren holdouts, has her penned in as the 2016 Democratic nominee. Roughly 45% of that total has come from large donations of $200 or more including $25,000 from liberal billionaire activist George Soros.

Meanwhile, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee was registered in August of 2013, some 7 months after Ready for Hillary. Despite the much later start, the committee has raised an impressive $7.2M through the same June filing. In stark contrast to Ready for Hillary, 89% of donations have come from small contributions, a strong indicator of grassroots support. While $6.5M of the Carson donations have come from small donors (under $200 donations) that total is just $4.5M for Hillary.

Social Media

When it comes to social media "likes" Hillary Clinton has the edge. But that only tells part of the story. While Hillary doesn't appear to have an active FaceBook page yet, the Ready for Hillary page has attracted about 1.9M supporters. That's not bad, but it is well below the social media levels of similar high profile non-President politicians such as Sarah Palin, who has collected 4.2M followers, but similar to US Senator Rand Paul's 1.7M likes.

Clinton's Twitter account has a solid 1.9M followers, but she averages roughly 7 tweets per month. Apparently they don't pay per character over there. 

Ben Carson has over 550,000 likes on his Facebook page, roughly 1/4 of Hillary's take. But the page is inactive and there hasn't been a posting by Carson in well over a year. He has been slightly more active on Twitter, and has a little over 200K followers on the site. Given the disparate name recognition of the two candidates, we would expect Clinton's social media following to be much larger than Carson's, and it is. But we would also expect Hillary groups to be trouncing Carson in PAC fundraising and for Hillary to be dominating in book sales, too, but she isn't. Most people probably couldn't pick Ben Carson out of a line-up. Few people couldn't pick Hillary. Yet the two are equals in books and fundraising.

Perhaps one takeaway is that Hillary's support is quite superficial. I've previously argued that people like the idea of Hillary more than the Hillary that actually shows up at the end of the day. When she signed up for Twitter, she quickly amassed a following of close to two million people. But the number of people willing to pony up money for her book measures just a fraction (roughly a tenth) of her social media power. Carson has sold a near even 1:1 ratio of books to Twitter followers. And as noted earlier, the pro-Carson PAC has raised $2M more in grassroots-heavy small-dollar donations than the pro-Hillary PAC - which leans heavily on millionaires and billionaires - has with almost twice as much time in operation. This could indicate that while far fewer people know who Ben Carson is, those who like him do so enough to actually lend financial support to either learn more about him (through books) or by donating to a supportive presidential PAC. That he has kept even with Hillary in both areas, and could possibly outperform her in both by year's end, is evidence enough that Ben Carson is not as much of a long-shot candidate as many seem to think.