Carson launches bid by knocking ‘kingmakers’ and politicians
DETROIT — Ben Carson launched his GOP bid for the White House on Monday by ripping members of both parties and insisting he is the true outsider candidate of 2016.
Carson, a conservative favorite who became a right-wing hero by criticizing President Obama’s policies at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, took shots at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and the GOP establishment favorite, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in a sometimes-meandering speech.
He called on voters to look for alternatives to the well-known candidates the parties are foisting upon them.
“Stop being loyal to a party or to a man, and use your brain,” Carson said. “That is the key to us as a nation to becoming successful again, not allowing ourselves to be manipulated by people who think they’re the kingmakers and the rulers of thought.”
Carson argued Obama’s policies have left the country hopeless, and he accused fellow Republicans of being complicit, as the government increases the
federal debt and people drop out of the workforce.
“The role of the government was to respond to the will of the people, but we’ve allowed the whole thing to be turned
upside down,” he said. “We’ve gone way beyond what the Constitution describes and expanded the government based on what the political class wants.”
A diverse group of about 1,000 people packed the cozy Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Detroit to see the first African-American to enter the race for the 2016 Republican nomination.
Carson, who has never run for elective office, faced his first test at the campaign launch. His political team pulled off a rollicking musical spectacle that nodded heavily to the influences of Motown soul and other local artists.
Carson’s wife of 40 years, Candy, warmed up the crowd, playing violin alongside a gospel choir for the national anthem. The choir later electrified the crowd with a rendition of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” The rapper hails from Detroit, and the refrain “you only get one shot” appeared to resonate with the crowd.
Supporters lined Madison Street in downtown Detroit chanting, carrying signs and wearing stickers that said “Run, Ben, Run” and “Win, Ben, Win.”
It was an enthusiastic showing, but Republican strategists remain doubtful Carson’s political team is prepared for the rigors of a national campaign or that he’ll be able to compete with the tens of million of dollars the top-tier candidates are already collecting.
They believe Carson’s inexperience on the political stage, as well as his knack for generating controversial headlines, will ultimately doom his campaign.
On Monday, Carson embraced the role of outsider.
“I got to tell you something: I’m not politically correct, and I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician, and I don’t want to be a politician,” he said. “Politicians do what is politically expedient, and I want to do what’s right.”
Carson was once near the top of the national polls but has seen his support slip in recent weeks as other candidates have entered the race. The retired neurosurgeon is currently in seventh place in the deep field of GOP candidates, with 4.8 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
A strong performance in the Iowa caucuses, where about 30 percent to 40 percent of caucus voters are evangelical Christians, will be critical to Carson’s presidential ambitions.
He’ll be competing with Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and possibly former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for social conservative voters in the Hawkeye State.
Carson is within striking distance of the top in Iowa but still sits in sixth place, according to the RealClearPolitics average, with 7.3 percent support. He trails Huckabee, who is at 9 percent in Iowa, while edging Cruz, at 7 percent.
But on Monday, Carson seemed confident and at ease as he paced the stage without a lectern. His advisers say he doesn’t prepare remarks before he speaks, and he didn’t do so for his Monday presidential announcement.
On Monday, he focused heavily on his personal story of being raised in poverty by a single mother, whom he credits with instilling in him the work ethic that helped him become one of the most celebrated neurosurgeons in the world.
Carson said his mother refused to go on welfare to support her family.
“There are many people who are critical of me and say, ‘Carson wants to get rid of safety nets and welfare programs, even though he must’ve benefitted from them.’ That is a blatant lie,” he said. “I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency.”
The newly minted candidate kept a packed schedule early Monday, first addressing about 100 supporters at a pastors’ breakfast at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
There, he argued the economy under Obama had left countless people behind and kept many in states of poverty and despair.
“People have lost hope,” Carson said.
He cited the unrest in Baltimore, where riots broke out last week in protest of the death of a 25-year-old black man who was fatally injured in police custody.
He said some rioters saw looting as the only economic opportunity available to them and argued liberal economic policies have created an environment where people are resigned to living off government welfare because they lack opportunities.
“This country has the most dynamic economy in the world. All you have to do is let it loose,” Carson said.
Following the breakfast, the retired neurosurgeon sat on a panel, and gave professional and life advice to about 100 mostly black students at the school that bears his name, the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine.
“Young ladies, it’s a mistake to have a baby while you’re still young and out of wedlock,” Carson said. “You need to wait, and you need to preserve yourself. Don’t just give yourself away to some guy. And guys — you need to respect the ladies. Don’t just do something to be cool, because guess what? You’re going to get a disease that will affect you for the rest of your life.”
The school prepares students for careers in the medical profession. A handful of students stood and gave testimonials about how the school had given them direction and focus they had lacked in their lives.
Carson had planned to leave Detroit for stops in Iowa, but he rescheduled at the last minute and will instead head to Dallas to be with his mother, who has fallen ill.