I read in Talking Points Memo this morning that Ben Carson just had a "very bad week." I must have been watching a different week, because it sure looked to me like the candidate came out ahead.
It's certainly true that Carson is receiving much more scrutiny now. That's what happens when a new man takes the lead in a contentious nomination fight—people start paying closer attention to his life and views, and suddenly we learn who Herman Cain might have hit on in the '90s or what sorts of notions found their way into a Rick Perry book. So that's the first piece of good news for Carson: He must be a frontrunner now, because he's getting treated like one.
Of course it doesn't do much good to be the frontrunner if you're immediately sunk by a scandal. But then Politico gave Carson an enormous gift: an exposé that instantly fell apart. Here, for those who missed it, is the story's original headline and subtitle:
This isn't the place to go through all the ways the article overreached. The short version is that Carson did not "admit" to "fabricating" anything; if you want more, The Federalist has a quick rundown of the piece's problems. The thing to highlight here is the effect. The sheer sloppiness of the Politico story has cast a shadow over every other bit of vetting that the candidate is getting. If you never were going to cast a ballot for Carson anyway, that shadow might not be visible. But among the voters he's aiming for, the media-persecution narrative writes itself.
The checks are practically writing themselves too. Carson claims to have taken in $3.5 million in donations last week.
I won't be surprised if we learn that some of the stories in Carson's autobiography are indeed exaggerated or false. (Is there any genre as unreliable as the "inspirational memoir"?) And I don't ultimately expect Carson to be the Republican nominee: He's the sort of candidate who soars in early polls and perhaps even does well in Iowa, but those aren't always the people who actually win the final prize. But I don't think anything that happened in the past week is going to play a big role in bringing his flight to an end. If anything, it could keep his lead alive longer.