Former Republican candidate Ben Carson has endorsed onetime rival Donald Trump, boosting the tycoon ahead of what could be the decisive week in the race for the party’s presidential nomination.
The retired neurosurgeon joined Mr Trump in a news conference on Friday morning at the real estate tycoon’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. More after the cut…
Mr Carson said: “I’ve come to know Donald Trump over the last few years. He is actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America. “There’s two different Donald Trumps. There’s the one you see on the stage and there’s the one who’s very cerebral.”
He said he had “buried the hatchet” with the real estate magnate over their scathing campaign clashes. Mr Trump, 69, mentioned during Thursday night’s televised Republican debate that Mr Carson would be backing him. Mr Carson halted his own White House campaign last week after failing to win a single primary contest, though he remains popular with evangelical voters.
Mr Carson, 64, briefly leapfrogged Mr Trump in opinion polls earlier in the Republican campaign. But voters deserted him after a series of missteps and following vicious attacks by Mr Trump on his character, accusing him of lying about his autobiography.
In a blistering barrage, Mr Trump had said his onetime rival was a “pathological liar” and even compared him to a child molester. Mr Carson turned the other cheek and said: “Pray for him.” Asked about the past personal attacks on Friday, Mr Trump shrugged and said: “It’s a tough business, politics.”
As political newcomers who launched unlikely insurgent challenges against establishment candidates, they are in some way natural bedfellows. Mr Carson is the second former Republican presidential candidate to officially back Mr Trump, following New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s imprimatur last month.
The endorsement is a blow to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has been in a tug-of-war with Mr Trump for the evangelical vote. Mr Carson announced last week that he is to chair an organisation that works on turning out the Christian vote. Mr Trump is leading ahead of next Tuesday’s Republican primaries in Ohio and Florida when he could all but sew up the party’s nomination. He has been appealing to Republican grandees, who remain wary that he could lead the party into oblivion in November’s election, to unite behind him.