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US election: Ben Carson low-key style seems to be working

By The Rainbow
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Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson campaigns at a Des Moines-area church in August. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It's been more than two years since he retired, but Ben Carson still speaks with the bedside manner of the pediatric neurosurgeon he used to be: calm, reassuring and ­decidedly nonflashy.

Taking the stage at the Iowa State Fair political soapbox last month, the doctor turned Republican presidential hopeful sounded more like an inspirational speaker than a politician. In a soothing tone, he recounted his personal story as a “desperately poor” black kid from Detroit who overcame major life obstacles to become one of the most celebrated brain surgeons in the world. He was the first to successfully separate twins conjoined at the back of the head, a story that was later immortalized in a made-for-TV movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

In the searing summer heat, a few hundred sweaty fairgoers listened as Carson, a political novice who has never held public office, paused and marveled at the magic of the human brain and its capacity for knowledge. He argued that if they were to really put their mind to it, Americans were capable of solving the nation's problems starting first with the lack of civility in our culture and politics.

“Can you imagine what the human brain can do if you really concentrate?” Carson said in an earnest tone. “We the American people have the ability to solve the many problems that face us … the problems that threaten to destroy us as a nation. They're not Democrat problems; they're not Republican problems; they are American problems versus un-American. And we have got to remember we are Americans first. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Carson's speech wasn't packed with the red-meat rhetoric that many of his rivals talked up during their soapbox remarks. In fact, like most of his appearances, he gave a stump speech that barely mentioned any policy at all — aside from a call for people to “talk more about God” and their faith in political discourse. But the crowd loved it, whooping and hollering at times, so loud that it drowned out Carson, who, even using a microphone, often speaks so softly that he's difficult to hear.

Indeed, for most of the summer, Carson's campaign had seemed drowned out — first by rivals who were better known and then by Donald Trump, whose brash, take-no-prisoners way of campaigning quickly shot him to the top of the early GOP primary polls, shocking just about everybody.

At the GOP debate sponsored by Fox News last month, Carson even joked about his struggle to get noticed — at one point thanking the moderator, Megyn Kelly, for calling on him a second time. “Well, thank you,” he said. “I wasn't sure if I would get to speak again.”

But in what has been deemed the “Summer of Trump,” perhaps most surprising has been Carson's quiet, gradual rise in the polls, in spite of the fact that he's campaigning on very little beyond his own personal story and his position as a political outsider willing to shake up Washington.

Carson poses with a supporter at the Iowa State Fair in August. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A CNN/ORC national poll of likely GOP primary voters released Thursday found Carson in second place in the Republican nomination race behind Trump and with a double-digit lead over rivals, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. According to the poll, 19 percent of Republicans are backing Carson — a 10-point surge since early August — compared to 30 percent for Trump and 9 percent for Bush. Yahoo politics

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