Seeking to regain momentum by portraying himself as the true outsider in the race, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday accused Donald Trump and Ted Cruz of having “substantial connections to the status quo.”
In a phone interview with The Daily Caller, Carson was asked to contrast himself with Trump and Cruz, who are leading the polls in the upcoming South Carolina primary.
“I would say that all of them have substantial connections to the status quo and to billionaires that want to change things — who want things done in their way,” Carson said.
Added Carson: “I believe that our nation is on the brink of disaster…we can’t just do what we’ve been doing all along. We just can’t tinker around the edges. That’s going to require some major changes. I’m not sure that’s going to be done, quite frankly, by people who have ties with the establishment and with the special interests.”
Carson came in fourth place in the Iowa caucuses and in eighth place in New Hampshire. He is hoping South Carolina, and the other southern states voting in the coming weeks, will be more receptive.
“I think it’s wide-open right now,” Carson said of the contest in South Carolina. “And I’m hoping to do extremely well there.”
Asked if he would withdraw from the race if he doesn’t do well in future contests, Carson said he has an obligation to the people who drafted him to remain in the race. “You can’t just turn your back on those people,” Carson said.
“You have to recognize I’m in this in a different way than anybody else is,” he said of his opponents. “This is something that, I guess, was part of their political ambition. For me, I was drafted…and those same people are saying to me, ‘please, please, please don’t drop out, don’t listen to any of the pundits, don’t listen to the polls, just keep hanging in there, your stronger states are coming up.’ So I take all that into consideration, and we’ll continue to assess it on a regular basis.”
As for South Carolina, Carson says the “main plan is to get out in front of as many people as possible.”
“A lot of people have developed an impression of me by what the media tells them,” Carson said, “and when they hear me in person, they say, ‘oh my goodness. He’s so different than what they say.'”
Though Carson doesn’t shy from saying his opponents are too close to the “status quo,” the former neurosurgeon said he does not plan to start attacking his rivals.
“Whether it works or not, it’s the way I am,” he said. “I don’t find that to be a productive thing, particularly when there are important things to talk about.”
He said he plans to emphasize education issues while campaigning in South Carolina.
“Education is critical,” Carson said. “One of the things that is of interest is the fact that between the ages of 17 and 24, 71 percent of applicants who are voluntary military are rejected for mental, physical or educational reasons. The largest being for educational reasons. And therefore, it’s a matter of national security that we shore up our education nationwide.”
Asked to weigh in on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ battle for black voters in South Carolina, Carson said: “I talk about real empowerment for people, how you turn your dollars over to create wealth, real educational choice, and how to create an economy that is effective for everybody.”
Speaking of black voters, Carson said: “They will realize the old-fashioned Democratic advocacy of dependency is not really what they want.”
Asked if he’s enjoyed the experience of running for president up until this point, Carson replied with a laugh: “Enjoy might be a stretch.”
“It’s a nasty business,” he said. “No question about it. And people will stoop to any level to accomplish their goals. And I guess I knew that at some level. But to actually see it, it’s a little bit disheartening.”
“But again, that’s one of the reasons I’m doing this. Because so many people in America tell me that they hate what we have become. And they want something different. And you know, I want to offer that something different. If they choose it, great. And if they don’t, I guess we’ll continue down the same roads.”