Ben Carson Endorses Donald Trump
Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump today in a press conference that was as bizarre as the rest of this campaign has been:
Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon who ended his own presidential bid last week, endorsed Donald J. Trump at a news conference on Friday at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s club, calling him “actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.”
The announcement came in the club’s white-and-gold ballroom the morning after Thursday night’s rather subdued Republican debate, where Mr. Trump announced on the debate stage that he had landed Mr. Carson’s support.
Mr. Carson praised the Manhattan businessman, saying, “There are two different Donald Trumps.”
“There’s the one you see on the stage, and there’s the one who’s very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully,” M. Carson said. “You can have a very good conversation with him. And that’s the Donald Trump that you’re going to start seeing more and more of right now.”
In a 45-minute news conference, the two men talked about their mutual respect, with Mr. Trump saying he expected Mr. Carson to be very involved with his campaign’s education policy.
And Mr. Trump, who previously boycotted a Fox News debate in Iowa after he felt the network had treated him unfairly, also seemed to float the idea that he might skip what was to be the next Republican debate, now scheduled for March 21 in Salt Lake City.
Mr. Trump, whose sedate appearance in the Miami debate on Thursday night was widely noted, said he believes it’s time to move past them.
“We’ve had enough debates in my opinion,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his news conference.
“It would be nice to finish off with this one,” he said, pointing out that he had repeatedly called it an “elegant” debate and saying it was simply time for a calm, staid debate so that the party could come together.
Mr. Trump maintained that he has continued to hear from Republicans seeking to bring the party together. He sought to project the image of a front-runner, saying he hoped there would not be a Republican National Convention fight over who will be the nominee.
During the campaign, especially when Mr. Carson was experiencing a brief boomlet in the polls, Mr. Trump clashed with the doctor-turned-presidential candidate, comparing him to a child molester, questioning his religion, and calling him “super low energy” — a favorite Trump insult.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s past criticism of him, Mr. Carson said, “We buried the hatchet — that was political stuff.”
“We move on,” he said.
But Mr. Trump also publicly defended Mr. Carson after the campaign of Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Trump’s chief rival, spread false information that Mr. Carson was dropping out of the race before the Iowa caucuses.
And on Friday, Mr. Trump said he had attacked Mr. Carson during the campaign because “I couldn’t lose him, I couldn’t shake him, he did so well.”
“And I fought back and I hit him hard, which is politics and Ben understands that,” Mr. Trump said. “But he handled it with such dignity. I frankly thought it was amazing. I gained a lot respect for him.”
The support of Mr. Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, could help Mr. Trump woo evangelical voters, who remain an important part of the Republican base. But Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said that Mr. Trump himself has done well with evangelicals so far on his own.
Notwithstanding Trump’s bruising attacks on Carson late in 2015, one always got the impression that there was some kind of mutual respect between the two men, perhaps because they were the two true non-political outsiders in the race. To that extent, I suppose, Carson’s endorsement isn’t a surprise. What does make it a surprise, though, is the difference in style between the two campaigns and the two men. But, as they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows.