Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson wowed supporters Sunday at stops in the Columbia area, bringing his plainspoken message of hard work and less government and bombast mixed with doses of humor, faith, patriotism.
“Let’s not use ideology to create our policies, let’s use facts and evidence. We have plenty of facts and evidence that show us how to do things,” Carson, 63, a former neurosurgeon and best-selling positive-message author, told several hundred people gathered at Midlands Technical College’s Airport campus.
Carson, who often invokes God, is said to be a favorite among white evangelical Christians. His outsider credentials – he has never held elective office – appeasl to liberterian-minded Republicans.
Some recent polls show Carson running second or third, well behind front-runner Donald Trump but more than holding his own in a pack of about 17 candidates dubbed serious by pundits and commentators in next year’s Republican presidential primary.
It was a wide-ranging 35-minute speech to a largely white, largely Christian audience.
Among Carter’s points:
On the economy: “This country is blessed with the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known,” he said. But the economy is in danger from “all these job killing, incentive killing, requirements. ... Every single regulation costs you money.”
On taxes: He blasted tax policy that forces companies to keep billions of their profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. Carson said he would declare a “six-month tax hiatus” that would allow corporations to bring that money back to the United States. He would require that 10 percent of that money be used for job creation and to help the unemployed.
He proposed a flat 10 percent tax on everyone, no matter how much they make. “God believes in proportionality,” said Carson, comparing to the Biblical tithe. “We all need to have skin in the game.”
On immigration: He said the federal government needs to crack down on illegal immigration. During a recent visit to a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, Carson said he was shocked at the lack of security. In an interview with The State earlier, he said the nation needs to take a look at what is called “birthright citizenship” – the current Constitutional guarantee that anyone born in the United States is automatically a citizen.
On extremism: Carson said extremist ideology has no place in a presidential campaign. “Not being compassionate toward others, and trying to destroy anybody who disagrees with you, believe me those are characteristics that do not come from God. They come from the other side.”
Afterwards, Columbia consultant and longtime GOP activist Bob Liming said he was delighted with Carson’s talk.
“He knows exactly what he’s talking about. He knows how to address the issues and he crosses spiritual values with reasonable intelligent conversation – not all the political rhetoric,” Liming said.
Mary Burkett, of Lexington, who introduced Carson, told the crowd a story that illustrated Carson’s mix of practicality and faith.
Twenty-five years ago, when her youngest son was seriously ill, the family took him to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, where Carson was a renowned brain surgeon and MRI technology had just been developed.
“I was a panicked mama,” she told the crowd, but Carson deciphered the MRI results and told her an operation was necessary. “He said, ‘Well, Mrs. Burkett, here’s my best piece of advice: we’ll both pray, and I’ll do my best, and we’ll leave the rest up to God.” Her son lived and is now 29.
Burkett said there’s “no question” she’s voting for Carson.
“I’m thrilled he could be here where people could actually talk to him.”
Kimberly Phillips, of Lexington, said Carson’s intelligence and moral standards are why she will vote for him. She’s not worried that he never held office. “You don’t have to be a politician to do a good job. You just have to surround yourself with the right people.”
Earlier Sunday, Carson, 63, attended services at Brookland Baptist, one of South Carolina’s largest African-American churches.
After spending more than two hours with the receptive crowd at Midlands Technical College, Carson headed to Seneca for a barbecue.
Monday, he returns to Columbia to register for the Feb. 20 South Carolina GOP presidential primary. He also plans an 11:30 a.m. State House rally.