Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has stunned the U.S. political world by finishing second in a new CNN poll in early-voting state Iowa, behind only Donald Trump — and ahead of such seasoned politicos as Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Mike Huckabee.
But Carson's supporters can point to a number of reasons for his surprisingly strong showing in that poll and others, including:
1. Carson has the best non-political background of any GOP candidate in the field.
He served as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and co-director of Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. He was also the first to separate conjoined twins joined at the head, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
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2. That career has earned him great admiration among ordinary Americans.
A Gallup poll conducted last year placed him sixth on a list of the most admired men in the world.
3. The large GOP field of candidates has aided him in the polls.
"He's running for president in an election in which there are so many candidates on the GOP side that it's going to be incredibly tough for one person to command much of a lead," The Washington Post noted. "At this point, any candidate who has a small, committed group of supporters is going to stand out, and Carson definitely has street cred among tea party supporters."
4. Carson earned star power back in 2013.
He criticized President Barack Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast with the president sitting just a few feet away, gaining widespread praise and support from conservatives.
5. He was impressive in the televised GOP debate.
CNN commentator Buck Sexton said he "came off as he is — an entirely likable, accomplished professional." And Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute said he "had a terrific closing statement."
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6. He has campaigned longer than the average Republican candidate.
Carson announced his candidacy for president on May 3. To date, he has run for 15 weeks or about four months, longer than the average of three months for all the 2016 candidates.
7. His campaign contributions indicate grass-root support.
As of the end of June, Carson America had raised $10.6 million, greater than the average of all presidential campaign committees in this cycle, $2.25 million. Significantly, individual contributions to the committee made up nearly 100 percent of the total, and 68 percent came from small donors.
8. His campaign message has struck a chord among voters.
People find his "We the People" message refreshing.
9. He is not a Washington insider.
He has never held public office. The only other candidate who can make that claim is Trump, who is leading in nearly all the polls.
10. Many Americans are already familiar with Carson through his books.
They include six best-sellers.
11. Carson holds views favored by conservative voters on social issues.
He strongly opposes the assertion that abortion is a woman's unrestricted right, opposes same-sex marriage, and strongly favors keeping God in the public sphere, according to OnTheIssues.org.
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12. He also holds views favored by conservatives on a range of other issues.
He opposes expanding Obamacare, strongly favors vouchers for school choice, opposes prioritizing green energy, believes marijuana is a gateway drug, opposes a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, opposes a stimulus program to aid the economy, strongly opposes expanding free trade, and has expressed support for "American exceptionalism."
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