Carson polishes outsider image at New Hampshire gathering

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Durham, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson polished his outsider’s credentials at a packed meeting here Wednesday, criticizing American politics and suggesting he would take on the establishment should he win the nation’s top office.

“We must remember that we are not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first,” the retired neurosurgeon said, drawing applause from a generally enthusiastic crowd in a University of New Hampshire ballroom.

Carson’s outsider status has helped him gather support from voters across the country. He trailed only Donald Trump in a national poll of likely voters released Thursday by Suffolk University in Boston, at 13 percent compared with Trump’s 23 percent. While many in the crowd buzzed about not being familiar with his plans or ideas, they wanted to hear his views as a Washington outsider.

Carson complied. He lambasted “dishonest politicians” and the “complicit media” who manipulate the American people. The doctor isn’t the only candidate to take aim at the media, as rivals such as Ted Cruz and Chris Christie have also criticized coverage of their campaigns.

Repeatedly drawing attention to his lack of political experience, Carson said he’s willing to discuss topics that most politicians won’t touch. He cited the nation’s fiscal woes, criticizing other candidates for not addressing the declining finances of Social Security. But at least some of his opponents have tackled the subject at similar events. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance, spoke about the topic at a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire in September.

Much of Carson’s remarks focused on unity. He urged his audience not to allow “purveyors of hates to divide us.” He said that he believes that the media consistently stirs the pot when it comes to racial and religious differences, income disparities, and the so-called war on women, in order to foster social divisions. He also took aim at political correctness, saying that people should feel free to do and say what they want, provided they aren’t physically hurting anyone.

Carson lambasted Democrat candidates Bernie Sanders (D-Vt) and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, who blame wealthy Americans for the problems of the poor. Carson said not enough Americans are building their savings because “there’s no incentive” to do so and that our economy is suffering because of excessive taxes and government regulation.

After speaking for an hour, the doctor took questions. Some in the audience used the opportunity to criticize Carson’s previous comments on climate change and evolution.

“Of course I believe there’s climate change,” Carson said in response to one. “Temperatures are always going up and then down.”

Carson said he believes that we must care for the environment in order to protect it for future generations, but that there’s no reason to make the environment a political issue.  On evolution, the doctor said he believes that God gave his creations the ability to adapt.

Carson is a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist, a strict Protestant denomination that draws its tenets directly from Biblical scripture, including Genesis and its story of the creation of the universe.

Members of a group of students and young professionals who questioned the doctor on climate change said they have raised the issue with several candidates and wondered why Carson seems to deny the environmental effects of auto emissions, which are known pollutants.

But others had a more positive opinion of Carson.

“I like the honesty he appears to have as an individual,” said Reed Harris, a western Massachusetts resident. Saying that there will be time later to learn the specifics of Carson’s plans, Harris said, “We’ve had a litany of candidates who have been there before, who have had the political stripes, and that hasn’t always achieved results.”

Carson also sounded that theme in his remarks.

“We have to be involved,” he told the crowd, encouraging them to vote and urge others to do so as well. “I don’t care if they don’t vote for me, that’s not the issue,” he said. “Just get them involved.”

Other presidential candidates in New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, Bush speaks Spanish, empathizes with Syrian refugees

Paul prefers a government shutdown over business as usual

Clinton calls for action to cut student loan debt for 40 million Americans

Christie dismisses ‘barcoding’ reports in immigration comments to N.H. gathering

Sen. Graham emphasizes foreign policy credentials at N.H. town meeting

Cruz attends town hall meet-and-greet in New Hampshire