After weak finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson got some good news: His first congressional endorsement.
GOP Maryland Rep. Andy Harris joined Carson on the campaign trail in South Carolina on Wednesday, just a few days before the state's presidential primary. “Americans want an outsider. As difficult as that is for a politician to say, people don’t want a politician,” Harris told Roll Call by phone, outside a Carson event in Columbia ahead of Saturday's primary.
Referring to Carson and businessman Donald Trump, who he defined as the two outsiders in the race, Harris added, "One of them wants to restore America’s greatness as a punch line – the other one believes in it.”
Harris, like Carson a retired doctor who said he met the candidate three decades ago during medical residency at Johns Hopkins, said he chose to endorse now after watching the last two Republican debates, in which he thought Carson came through as “a thoughtful conservative.”
Carson has built his political brand on being a challenger to political elites – like members of Congress. When asked whether he was worried that a congressional endorsement might tarnish Carson's outsider persona, Harris chuckled.
“I’m hardly an establishment politician. I’ve been a physician, sponsored a term-limited bill since I’ve been in Congress,” he said, also pointing to his membership on the House Freedom Caucus. “That’s about as anti-establishment as you can get.”
With six candidates still in the race and 48 states that have not voted, Harris said he was confident that momentum – so fluid already – is ripe to change again.
"Political pendulums swing back and forth all the time – just ask John Kasich,” he said, referring to the Ohio governor’s second-place finish in New Hampshire. “I think this pendulum is going to swing several more times before the convention. People are going to want a thoughtful conservative.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio recently took the lead in the endorsement race, surpassing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Trump, the frontrunner, has no endorsements.