Carson seen as fresh face among conservative leaders
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a new favorite in conservative circles, wouldn't say Sunday where he stood on the political spectrum, but said his opinions resonate with both parties.
"I think basically what I've been talking about, if you distill it, it's not really right stuff or left stuff. It's logical stuff," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Carson won conservative acclaim last month when he criticized Democratic policies on taxes and health care while giving the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast. President Obama was sitting just feet away as the renowned neurosurgeon openly chided some of Obama's positions.
Carson was invited to this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, where his address on Saturday was greeted with great fanfare. He even stoked some speculation of political ambition when he announced he'd be retiring from medical practice in three months.
"There are so many more things that can be done," Carson said at CPAC, pointing to his educational foundation, Carson's Scholars. Asked if he would consider entering politics, Carson said, "Once we get that taken care of, who knows."
He drew enthusiastic applause when he asked, hypothetically, "What if you magically put me in the White House?"
Carson said Sunday he was a registered independent and if he were asked to speak at a Democratic convention, he'd be "happy to do so."
Al Cardanas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC, said on the same program that the three-day conference this year heard from a number of new voices and up-and-coming conservatives that will represent the next generation of the movement.
He pointed to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as the two young leaders who came out on top. In a 2016 presidential straw poll taken at the conference, Paul took first with 25%, while Rubio came in second with 24%.
Carson also fared well on the 23-name ballot, placing in the top 10 with 4% of the vote, the same score as freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. And Carson had more votes than 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who took 3%.
"The theme of CPAC this year precisely was, you know, new challenges, new generation of conservative leaders," Cardenas said. "We showed that indeed the party is revolving around these new leaders in the conservative movement."
Kiki McLean, a Democratic strategist, agreed that CPAC was a chance for big names to introduce themselves to a larger audience, but added the conference was nothing more than that.
"It's a little bit of the state pageant before you get into the Miss America show, and I think what you saw were some early introductions," she told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
"I'm not sure that anybody, any American, walked away with an understanding this weekend that the Republican Party has made a decision about where it's going to go," she also said. "I think that's still a really big question."
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