Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon turned conservative sensation, is taking a major step toward a 2016 presidential bid by forming a political action committee and selecting the man who would run his campaign, The Washington Times has learned.
Emerging from two-days of meetings with supporters in Palm Beach, Fla., Dr. Carson told the Times on Friday morning he has selected Houston businessman Terry Giles to be his 2016 campaign chairman should he run and approved the formation of a PAC called One Nation.
"Now is the time to start all of the appropriate exploration and investigation, and put down the structure that is necessary," Dr. Carson said in a phone interview.
Asked about the likelihood he will run for president in 2016, Dr. Carson said: "I would say we are definitely a step or two closer than we were a year ago."
He said the outcome of the 2014 elections in which Republicans are trying to seize control of the Senate would be a major factor, and that his new PAC would try to support candidates with similar viewpoints as his.
"Obviously we are very interested in what happens in November," he said. "And if the people also continue to show strong desire for me to run, obviously that would be an important factor too."
"In the meantime, we will focus our attention on helping those candidates who understand the change we need in our nation, and how to lead toward the healing our of nation," he said.
Dr. Carson, a popular Washington Times columnist, huddled for two days with about two dozen prominent strategists, potential fund-raisers and supporters in Palm Beach to study all of the "ramifications of a run and make sure all of that is fully understood."
Among those attending the private meetings were Mr. Giles, TV and radio personality Armstrong Williams, and political email and fund-raising strategist Mike Murray. During the strategy sessions, Dr. Carson asked Mr. Giles, a friend for over two deacdes, to serve as his campaign chairman if he runs.
"Basically if Dr. Carson decides to go forward, I've been asked to chair the campaign and make a full commitment during the period of time leading up to a decision and during the election cycle," Mr. Giles told the Times.
Mr. Giles, who like Dr. Carson won the Horatio Algers award for rising from humble means to business success, said the new PAC would be used to "explore and analyze and engage in homework to determine what the political landscape would look like and how it might materialize for a Carson for President campaign.
"We're going to continue to watch the political landscape and analyze what it might look like should Ben decide to run, and assuming it continues to look good, we'll be making additional steps that bring him closer to being a candidate," he added.
Dr. Carson, for decades one of the world's premier pediatric neurosurgeons whose work was celebrated in a made-for-TV movie, burst onto the political scene about 18 months ago when he confronted President Obama at a national prayer breakfast ceremony.
Since then, he has fast become a conservative favorite, with a best-selling book, a popular Times column and speaking engagements from coast-to-coast. His speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington back in March drew standing ovations from thousands of activists, heightening talk of a possible presidential run.
Soft-spoken, yet impassioned about issues, Dr. Carson has stressed common sense policy solutions to the nation's problems while eschewing political correctness and government dependence. In private, Dr. Carson has been testing many of his policy solutions in small meetings with columnists and activists.
Mr. Giles, a lawyer who built a successful business empire in Houston that ranges from cars to banks to technology companies, said Dr. Carson's humility and plain-spoken approach to policy could differentiate him among candidates with traditional stump speeches and talking points.
"I keep hearing the same kind of people running for office making the same kind of promises that turn out to be hollow," he said. "Ben is different. He is humble. It's never been about him being first. He learned to put his patients first. And if Ben were placed in a real position of authority in this country, I am certain he would put America first."
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