MIAMI – Ben Carson threw his support behind Donald Trump on Friday, calling the Republican presidential front-runner a “very intelligent man that cares deeply about America.”
Americans need to know that there are “two Donald Trumps,” Carson said.
One is the man who has dominated headlines and the Republican primaries with his brash statements, said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who captivated some conservative voters with his unconventional presidential campaign before dropping out of the race last week.
The other is “very cerebral and sits there and considers things very carefully.”
“He’s much more cerebral and a much more reasonable person than comes across,” Carson said of Trump. As voters “begin to see the real individual there,” he said, “I think we’re going to be comforted as a nation.”
Carson and Trump appeared together at a news conference at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., a day after Trump appeared in a surprisingly civil debate – “elegant,” in Trump parlance – alongside his three remaining competitors for the Republican nomination.
Echoing a plea Trump has made in recent days, Carson implored Republican leaders to unite behind the front-runner.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Carson said, alluding to some Republican leaders who have said they will not back Trump. “I want the will of the people to be heard. I want the political process to play out as it should play out.“
While Trump and Carson clashed at times on the campaign trail, they share many political beliefs. Both have called for dramatic measures to reduce the number of immigrants living illegally in the U.S., and both have made controversial statements about Muslims. Last fall, Carson said that to become president, a Muslim would “have to reject the tenets of Islam.“
The endorsement by Carson, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who frequently drops biblical references, could help boost Trump’s support among evangelical Christian voters, many of whom flocked to Carson’s outsider campaign while hurting Trump rival Ted Cruz, who counts evangelicals as part of his base.
Carson has had a rocky relationship with Cruz since accusing the senator from Texas of dirty tricks to dissuade voters from backing Carson on the night of the Iowa caucuses.
This week, Cruz won the endorsement of another Republican candidate who dropped out of the race, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Another onetime candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is said to be meeting with Trump’s rivals, although it is unclear whether Bush will endorse anyone before Florida’s primary on Tuesday.
Carson and Trump blamed their earlier friction on the nature of politics, with Carson saying he was not offended. ”We move on because it’s not about me, it’s not about Mr. Trump,“ he said.
Trump praised Carson as ”a special, special person“ who has led ”an awe-inspiring life.“ Trump said he and Carson had a good discussion on education this week, and said he hopes to keep Carson involved in his campaign and potential presidency.
Keeping in line with his recent shift away from the insults and name-calling that have characterized much of his campaign, Trump refrained from criticizing his remaining competition for the Republican nomination. And he wanted to be sure that others noticed. Speaking of Thursday’s debate, Trump said, ”There were a lot of good feelings in that room. And I think, frankly, it was something that the Republican Party needed.“
He urged Republican leaders to embrace his campaign.
“The Republican Party should grab this,“ he said, adding that he has the potential to win Rust Belt states for Republicans in the November general election.
“I will get states that are unbelievable for the Republican Party, that are unthinkable for the Republican Party,“ he said.
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