satire on the campaign trail

Dr. Ben Carson Dinosaur Wrangler

Most Iowans would rather have Bobby Jindal perform brain surgery on them than Dr. Ben Carson, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll of registered Republicans in the state who either need brain surgery, or are undecided.

A retired brain surgeon, Dr. Carson led in all previous polls in the key primary state that asked voters: “If you needed brain surgery, which GOP candidate would you want to perform it?”

In the latest poll – coming in the wake of recent revelations about Dr. Ben Carson fabricating parts of his personal history and making bizarre statements about pyramids and other things – Iowa voters’ faith in the candidate appears to be shattered.

Now 28 percent of Republicans say they’d rather see Bobby Jindal in the operating room, even though he has zero medical experience. Donald Trump, with 24 percent, would be their second choice even though he, too, has no medical experience.

In a campaign where lack of experience seems to be everything, it’s no shock to GOP analysts that Republican voters would prefer that rank amateurs perform brain surgery on them. The issue is trust, said GOP consultant William Broadstreet.

“And the truth is, Dr. Carson, for all his expertise, has lost that trust. After they heard about that knife story, where he couldn’t even manage to stab somebody, who wants him cutting their brain with a scalpel?

“You might lose an arm.”

Stunningly, Dr. Carson finished 8th in the poll. He also trails Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. A medical doctor, Paul finished 3rd with 14 percent.

Why Jindal?

“It’s a no-brainer when you think about it,” said Iowa farmer Bill Stevens who previously supported Dr. Carson as his brain surgeon. “It’s all about shaking up the status quo, about getting some fresh blood in there.

“Bobby Jindal, no matter what you say about him, is the ultimate outsiders’ outsider because he’s been running for president for six months and nobody’s ever heard him! So that finally turned it for me, it’s something I just finally after a lot of thinking, got.”

Analysts said Jindal polled the highest because other candidates have other trust issues.

“Would I let Marco Rubio perform brain surgery as opposed to Dr. Ben Carson from what we know now?” said Sidney Felder, an insurance agent in De Moines. “Sure. But would I give Marco Rubio my credit card to pay for it? What — do I look like I’m crazy?”

A spokesman for Dr. Carson, played down the results of the poll, pointing out that in national polls two out of three Republicans in need of brain surgery still would pick Dr. Carson over Jindal.

“He separated co-joined twins!” said the spokesman. “I’d like to see Bobby try that.”

It’s not clear what percentage of Republicans need brain surgery, but, by one estimate it’s exactly as many as support the candidacy of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

Psychologists said they are not surprised by the phenomenon of people favoring somebody with no medical experience performing a life or death operation such as brain surgery.

“It’s really all about fear, it’s primal,” said Steven Flaker, a psychologist at the University of Colorado who has studied people who walk up to complete strangers and ask them to perform brain surgery.

“We all have a core of trust and a complete stranger has not shattered that trust. Dr. Carson, with all his crackpot stories, is a trust buster, because everybody believed, and now they’re thinking ‘Whoa buddy.’”

Ed Walker, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, said it’s a simple case of nerves. As the press has pressed for answers from Dr. Carson, he has gotten rattled, and you can see it in press conferences.

“If you walked up behind him right now and said ‘boo!’I guarantee you he would jump slap out of his loafers,” said Walker. “That’s not who you want in the OR when your brain’s on the line.”

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Image: Dr. Ben Carson Dinosaur Wrangler by DonkeyHotey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott is a former staff reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where, over the course of 24 years, he covered two of the biggest trials in the city's history -- the racketeering trial of former mayor Bill Campbell, and the trial of courthouse shooter, Brian Nichols -- and wrote features on travel, food, politics, movies, TV and advertising, and covered breaking news on the metro desk. He left the paper two years ago and is living, quite happily, in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a freelance writer.