More than 1,500 people in one of the biggest Democratic strongholds in Florida stood in line for more than an hour to meet the man who is suddenly leading the race for the Republican nomination for president.
When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson arrived in Tallahassee on Monday morning as part of a 13-city Florida book signing tour, he said the crowd only proved what he has known from the start of his campaign, which seemed such a longshot six months ago.
“It tells me they are a lot smarter than anybody thinks they are,” Carson said of his fans who stood for more than an hour to meet him and get a copy of his new book, “A More Perfect Union.”
Carson said his message is resonating because people agree with him that the country is going down the wrong path and cannot keep electing the same kinds of people.
“If we continue down the traditional political pathway, we are going to get more of the same,” Carson told reporters. “And more of the same will take us across the brink and we will have no return.”
It’s that outsider approached that has helped put Carson at the top of the 2016 GOP field, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. In that poll of 1,289 people nationwide, Carson was the choice of 26 percent. Donald Trump was second with 22 percent. No other GOP contender had even 10 percent. That puts Carson, who lives in West Palm Beach, well ahead of the U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, the two Florida Republicans many expected would be leading the field.
“Certainly I’m doing better than they are in the polls,” Carson told reporters at a Books-A-Million in Tallahassee when asked about how he is faring against Rubio and Bush.
During questions from reporters, Carson also said he was supportive of the concept of medical marijuana when “done in the proper way.” But Carson was clear that he does not support recreational use of marijuana.
Carson is on a 5-day tour of Florida to promote his new book. On Sunday night he began the bus tour in Pensacola. On Tuesday his tour winds through Tampa and Lakeland. On Thursday he wraps up the Florida trip with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.