Ben Carson and Donald Trump
Ben Carson will endorse Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s candidacy for the White House on Friday, sources have confirmed to the Guardian.
The retired neurosurgeon, who dropped out of the race last week, will endorse the billionaire frontrunner in Palm Beach, Florida, according to multiple sources briefed on the plans.
Carson will be the second Republican presidential candidate to back the real estate businessman after Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. His endorsement will come just days before Florida’s crucial winner-take-all primary on 15 March and carries sway with social conservatives.
The mild-mannered former neurosurgeon was considered the other major outsider in the Republican presidential race, and his support of Trump may not be entirely surprising. Carson had hinted at a possible endorsement earlier on Thursday.
In a radio interview earlier on Thursday, Carson told interviewer John Gibson that he was “certainly leaning towards Trump”.
“There’s the Donald Trump that you see on television and who gets out in front of big audiences, and there’s the Donald Trump behind the scenes,” he explained. “They’re not the same person. One’s very much an entertainer, and one is actually a thinking individual.”
During the Republican debate in Miami on Thursday night, Trump announced that Carson is “endorsing me, by the way, tomorrow morning” while trying to answer a question about federal education policy.
Last Friday, when Carson dropped out of the race, he also praised Trump to reporters.
“Mr Trump really does want to be successful,” he said. “That’s a huge part of him. He would feel terrible if he had a presidency that was not successful, and he’s smart enough to know he would not have a successful presidency if he does some of the stuff he’s talking about.”
But as recently as late February, Carson told voters in an event in Houston that supporting Trump would be “a very very bad mistake”. And his decision about whom to endorse, which comes after he was mocked by the bombastic Republican frontrunner, will disappoint some of his backers.
“I am completely surprised and disappointed – if it is true,” said Terry Giles, a longtime Carson friend who was instrumental to building Carson’s campaign and fundraising operations before “Trump was the highest bidder. It certainly cannot be because Ben and Donald are in alignment on the issues, politically or spiritually. Let’s hope it is just a bad rumor, otherwise a lot of Dr Carson fans will be heartbroken.”
Although Carson faded from public view in the final months of his campaign, and often cut a diminutive figure during the televised debates, he is admired in conservative circles. Both Carson and Trump’s rise was leveraged to the discontent among Republican voters for politics as usual in this election cycle.
Carson also showed some initial electoral and fundraising promise. Carson was the only Republican candidate besides Trump to lead in multiple national polls since the current frontrunner’s emergence over the summer. He has also raised more money than any other Republican candidate for the White House.
The endorsement, first reported by the Washington Post, comes despite a history of some acrimony between Trump and Carson. In a CNN interview in November, Trump suggested Carson had in the past had a “pathological temper” and went on to compare him to a child molester. He also accused Carson of making up parts of his biography.
Yet, for all that strife, it pales in comparison to the discord between Carson and Ted Cruz, who is emerging as the main rival to Trump.
Carson, famed for being the first person to separate twins conjoined at the head, became a prominent political figure in 2013. Appearing as the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson launched a furious diatribe against Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act, while the president sat just feet away. The speech turned the African American doctor into a beloved figure among conservatives and fueled his insurgent presidential bid, which began last year.
However, Carson’s campaign was not able to capitalize on this grassroots support as well as his strong fundraising. Most of the $58m that Carson raised was funneled back into paying for overhead, something that raised eyebrows among political observers. When asked by the Guardian in January if his campaign was a direct-mail scam, Carson simply replied: “Not that I know of.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010