Ben Carson, once mocked by Donald Trump, stood beside the GOP front-runner on Friday to endorse him.
"Some people said: 'Why would you get behind a man like Donald Trump?' I'll tell you why," Carson said at a press conference at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Estate in Palm Beach, Fla. "First of all I have come to know Donald Trump. He's actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.
"There are two different Donald Trumps. There is the one you see on the stage, and the one who is very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. That's the Donald Trump you will start seeing more and more of right now."
Trump mercilessly taunted and mocked Carson on the campaign trail, particularly over Carson's claim that he once tried to stab a fellow student but that the boy's belt buckle prevented the knife from breaking the skin.
Trump had decried the former neurosurgeon as a “pathological liar,”
said he had made up key parts of his personal biography and compared him to a “child molester” who could not be cured.
"Some people said, 'he said terrible thing about you, how can you support him,'" Carson said. "We buried the hatchet. That was political stuff. And, you know, that happens in American politics."
Carson also said he and Trump have more in common that he realized.
"I have found in talking with him that there is a lot more alignment, philosophically and spiritually than I ever thought that there was," Carson said "That actually surprised me more than anything. I realize how a person's image can be greatly distorted, having been the victim of that. I probably understand it better than anybody."
The latest endorsement for Trump followed a CNN-hosted Republican debate in Miami on Thursday night at which Trump and the remaining three candidates in the Republican race struck a markedly more civil tone.
Carson's backing also gives the New York real estate magnate a boost just days before crucial nominating contests in the battle to be the party's presidential candidate for the Nov. 8 election.
Republican primaries in five states - including Florida and Ohio - on March 15 will be critical for Trump to cement his lead, and to determine whether U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Governor John Kasich will be able to continue with their increasingly long-shot candidacies. Trump's nearest rival in the race is U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
The religiously conservative Carson's outsider campaign soared last year but ultimately lost steam as Carson stumbled over questions about the veracity of aspects of his compelling life story.
Carson also admitted he didn't always have the taste for the gritty politics that played out on the campaign trail.
"This whole process getting involved in the political process was something I never particularly intended to do," Carson said. "But I listened to the people. It was really all about the people. It continues to be all about the people."
After hitting Carson hard on the campaign trail, Trump later sided with Carson over a dispute in Iowa, when Senator Ted Cruz's campaign wrongly told voters that Carson had dropped out of the race before the state's Feb. 1 caucuses.
Carson said he believed the billionaire real estate mogul will be able to put aside his caustic, controversial rhetoric that has become a hallmark of his public appearances.
"It's not about me. It's not about Mr. Trump," Carson said. "It's about America."
In his introduction to Carson Friday, Trump described the retired neurosurgeon as a "special, special person — special man," and a "friend" who is respected by everyone.
Trump said his campaign hits at Carson were because of his rivals strong early poll numbers.
"The one person that just kept sneaking up on me -- I couldn't lose him -- was Dr. Ben Carson," Trump said. "I could not lose that guy. I was doing well. Trump would be at 28 at that time. I remember when it was 28, Ben was 18. Then he was 19. The next week he was 22. I thought, whoa, what's happening here. I don't like this. Then he was 24. Then I had a pretty good poll where I took.
"I said, this guy is unbelievable. So I started going after Ben. And it's politics. And I was really impressed with the way he fought back. He fought back with silence and strength. I couldn't lose him. I couldn't shake him. He did so well. I fought back and hit him hard."
Carson, asked why he did not back Cruz, said he could not support political operatives who want to stop Trump and that blocking him would fracture the Republican Party and hand Democrats a victory in November.
His endorsement on Friday followed that of another former candidate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who announced last month he was getting behind Trump.
Material from The Associated Press and AFP was used in this report.
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