7:15 a.m.: As Republican Ben Carson rode from the West Des Moines Marriott to his very first campaign event Tuesday, he was thinking about the reception he’d get from Iowans.
“Would they be stand-offish? Or would they be friendly? Would they be open? I just didn’t know what to expect,” Carson told The Des Moines Register later in the day as he rode in his rented black charter bus. He’s the first 2016 contender to roam the state in a bus, and the Register was given exclusive access during his trip from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids and his two stops.
Carson, a wealthy retired-surgeon-turned-conservative-book-author, is trying to convince Iowans he’s not just a leisure candidate, and that he can win the White House. He flew to Iowa on a private jet Monday night, after announcing his candidacy in Detroit, then rerouting to Texas to visit his critically ill mother, Sonya Carson, 88.
“She uttered some words yesterday,” he said. “She seemed to know who I was. She doesn’t speak clearly enough to be able to know for sure. But she seemed to recognize us. I think she recognized her grandsons.”
Carson spent more than 12 hours on the trail Tuesday trying to avoid getting emotional.
“I’ve learned over the years how to segregate my thoughts,” he said. “I had such an arduous neurosurgical career with a lot of difficult and complex cases, and I didn’t want to bring those home with me. You know, I wanted to play with the boys and have fun with my wife. So I learned how to segregate all that. If I were to sit here right now and start thinking a lot about my mother, I’d get tearful.”
7:45 a.m.: Carson’s first stop was an unpublicized drop-in at the Smokey Row Coffee Co. in Des Moines. His aides didn’t pack the tables with friendly Republicans. They didn’t tell the cafe staff they were coming. They wanted to see what sort of authentic reaction he’d get.
“It turned out they were very friendly and very open,” Carson said. “The first guy I ran into didn’t want me to buy my hot chocolate. He said, ‘I’m buying that for you.’ ”
That was Steve Casteel, a Republican who recognized Carson beside him at the cash register.
“I love the values he brings,” said Casteel, of Heartland Payment Systems in Urbandale, who was at the coffee shop for a business group meeting. “He’s a fresh face, not a career politician.”
Most cafe patrons didn’t recognize that fresh face, but Carson worked the room, introducing himself, including to a young woman carrying a folder with a Hillary Clinton sticker on it who seemed genuinely excited to meet him.
Members of the Iowa Business Connection, gathered in a side room, spontaneously invited Carson to share some words.
“(The government) needs to be run like a well-oiled machine, like a business,” Carson told them, waving his fork in the air as he spoke and ate a frosted banana baked good. “We owe that to the people.”
Carson said he gleans wisdom from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, reading a portion every morning and evening. He has an affinity with its author, Solomon, he said. He noted the story about the king of Israel proving himself a wise mediator by threatening to cut a baby in half. Carson said his middle name is Solomon, and his life’s work was performing separation surgeries on conjoined twins.
“God has a sense of humor,” he said.
Up at the front counter, Chantal Rozmus, a 23-year-old medical student at Des Moines University, was taken aback when she recognized Carson.
“Wow,” she told the barista. “I’ve got to go say ‘Hi.’ ”
9 a.m.: A yellow bus full of African-American schoolgirls from Des Moines’ Hoover High disembarked onto the Iowa Capitol steps. The Carson bus rolled in right behind theirs. None of the 32 girls seemed to recognize Carson, but the supervisor in their “Sisters for Success” mentoring program, Patricia Dunbar, did.
“We try to make sure the girls know what’s happening not only in their communities but worldwide,” Dunbar told the Register. “Him showing up was just phenomenal. We had no idea.”
The soft-spoken Carson offered parting words of wisdom.
Asked what he said, Destiny Jackson, 15, answered: “He said, ‘The only person who can tell you what to do in life is you.’ ” She waved her index finger in the air for emphasis. “With the finger like this.”
9:15 to 11:45 a.m.: Carson met privately with Iowa House Republicans then Iowa Senate Republicans. When a group of three Statehouse reporters approached Carson, he took questions, including about whether the other GOP contenders will be viewed as stronger on foreign policy.
“I would say let’s hear their solutions and let’s hear mine,” he answered. “Any negotiations that we have with (Iran), they have to be on our terms completely. And any violation — one iota of violation — and we go in a different direction. It’s as simple as that.”
Carson shot pictures by the original Iowa Constitution in Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office, then had so much to ask Gov. Terry Branstad about ethanol, trade and agriculture that the meeting lasted half an hour, more time than the governor had allotted.
“I went right for the major things,” Carson said. The lieutenant governor was there, too. “Kim, ummm …” (Kim Reynolds.)
Noon: His first words in his first public Iowa speech as a presidential candidate included his wife.
“Candy and I are delighted to be here with you,” he told about 70 people on the top floor of the Ruan Building in downtown Des Moines during a meeting of the Bull Moose Club.
1:45 p.m.: Ben Carson did a radio interview by telephone with Fox News’ Sean Hannity about economic conditions and racial dysfunction in Baltimore. Carson’s team had originally planned to fly Delta to Iowa, but they chartered a private plane to accommodate a 40-minute live TV interview in Detroit on Monday that Hannity had requested. Hannity ended up having to cancel.
2:25 p.m.: “It smells like farm country around here,” said Doug Watts, Carson’s communications director, as the bus cruised through Poweshiek County.
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SOURCE: The Des Moines Register – Jennifer Jacobs and Timothy Meinch