HAMPSTEAD, N.H. — Michelle Lecuyer had never heard of Dr. Ben Carson until a close friend mentioned she had just finished a book written by the Baltimore surgeon.
They talked about him briefly and, for whatever reason, the name stuck in her head. So when she heard that there would be an office opening for the Draft Ben Carson for President effort in New Hampshire, she decided to check it out.
The more she learned about Carson, the more excited she got about him.
“We basically agree on everything,” Lecuyer said.
This is how she came to join a group of volunteers hoping to get him in the race. Two weeks ago she hosted a pro-Carson party in her home, and a few dozen people showed up. They talked about the man and the effort. Most left saying they wanted their names added to the list of supporters.
The early days of the New Hampshire presidential primary are usually the domain of the Granite State’s super-activists who have been deeply involved in politics for a while, but Lecuyer is not among that group. In fact, she hasn’t worked for a candidate before. And even though she calls herself a conservative, she was registered as an independent voter for the past 15 years.
Presidential draft movements are nothing new in New Hampshire — they go back to the successful effort to draft Dwight Eisenhower to run in 1952. Some are successful, and some are not. These efforts also bring new political players to the scene. A Draft Wesley Clark campaign in New Hampshire in 2003 introduced Carol Shea-Porter to politics, and she eventually served three terms in Congress.
The Draft Ben Carson effort, also known as Run Ben Run, is similar to the Ready for Hillary and Run Warren Run efforts. All are technically super PACs. They all have the dual goals of persuading the candidate to run and creating a political infrastructure if they do. None will really go away if the candidate begins a full-fledged campaign.
In December, the Draft Carson group rented 1,700 square feet of office space on the main drag in Manchester. The office, open nearly every day, is populated by small groups of people making calls on their cellphones in two different shifts: from noon to 4 p.m, and from 4 to 8 p.m. For dinner there are generally themes, including Taco Tuesdays. A more established phone bank system just arrived at the office. There is also an office in Iowa.
Running the New Hampshire office is Sarah De La Certa, 21, a Louisiana native, who attended college in Rhode Island. She became inspired by Carson after watching a video of him speaking at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, a speech that essentially launched his political career. She moved to New Hampshire in November and began organizing. Her job is to make sure that thousands of phone calls are made to registered Republicans in the state. She is also a regular presence at nearly every local Republican committee meeting and every Republican event since she got to the state.
Either because of this effort or his own reasons, on Tuesday Carson created a presidential exploratory committee, which will be his own official organization that will allow him to raise and spend campaign money.
Carson’s first trip to New Hampshire is scheduled for April 6.