Former presidential candidate Herman Cain had dinner on Sunday with Dr. Ben Carson, a potential contender for the 2016 Republican nomination, just blocks from the White House.
It was a private meal, and advisers were asked to eat at separate tables in order to encourage candor.
Sources familiar with the meeting say Cain was effusive in his praise for Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, and expressed his interest in working with Carson on a variety of future projects.
While politics and the 2016 presidential campaign weren’t the reason for the gathering, Republican insiders say the growing personal and professional relationship between Cain and Carson is an intriguing development. If Carson decides to run, Cain is considered a potential confidant.
In an interview with the New York Times last month, Carson said he hasn’t ruled out a run. “Certainly if a year and a half went by and there was no one on the scene and people are still clamoring, I would have to take that into consideration,” he said. “I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens.”
Other prominent black conservatives attended the dinner at the Willard hotel, including pro-life activist Alveda King, former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, writer Star Parker, and economist Walter Williams. “The conversation was free-flowing,” a source says. “People talked a lot about the culture, and about how conservatism can empower the black community.”
Carson and Cain also spent Sunday afternoon together, attending a fundraiser for Carson’s scholarship fund at the Georgetown home of former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray.
Carson rose to fame in February when he criticized President Barack Obama’s policies at the National Prayer Breakfast. His time as a national political figure, however, has been rocky, and he has amassed an army of liberal critics. He recently withdrew from being commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine due to student protests.
Cain is busy these days with Job Creators Network, his pro-growth advocacy group. Last week, the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive hosted an array of Republican leaders and donors in Florida for policy discussions.
During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Cain briefly ascended to the top of the national polls, surprising political observers. He landed on the cover of Newsweek magazine, and his 9-9-9 tax plan was popular among many conservatives. But allegations of sexual harassment derailed his campaign and he left the race in December 2011, weeks before the Iowa caucuses.