Ben Carson's surge to No. 2 in the polls, fatter donations and big campaign-trail crowds are being touted by supporters as proof the GOP presidential contender is a serious in-it-to-win-it threat to win the nomination.
"The press has never taken him seriously," former campaign manager and current super PAC fundraising coordinator Terry Giles tells The Hill.
"Even up until three days ago, they'd talk about everyone but him. Now they have no choice but to talk about him."
Though rival GOP contender Donald Trump dominates national polling, with 26.5 percent, Carson is the only other candidate in double digits, with 12 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average
But it was the Des Moines Register-Bloomberg survey
released last weekend that seemed to seal the deal, showing Carson catching Trump in Iowa, where both notched 23 percent support.
It's been all uphill since Carson's understated but strong performance in the first GOP debate hosted by Fox News – and his increased profile is being felt in his war chest, which added $6 million in August, more than twice what was collected in July, The Hill reports.
"August was a record-breaking month," Mike Murray, president and CEO of the firm handling Carson's small-dollar donations, tells The Hill. "The initial boom came right after the debate in the early part of the month and it has held throughout."
Carson's political team also points to the candidate's improved ground game.
At one stop in Phoenix last month
, 12,000 supporters turned out, The Hill notes, and the retired neurosurgeon drew 3,000 people at an event in Arkansas and 2,000 at a stop in rural Colorado.
"In one week, Dr. Carson started in Harlem, then campaigned in New Hampshire, Las Vegas and Reno. From there, he went to the state fair in Des Moines, was off to Jackson Hole for a fundraiser and visited the mine spill in Durango where 2,000 people showed up," Carson campaign strategist Ed Brookover tells The Hill.
"As nice as he is, Dr. Carson is very competitive and believes he can win. Ask anyone he's played pool with."
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