Ben Carson says he can win the S.C. GOP presidential primary

Dr. Ben Carson

Presidential candidate and retired doctor Ben Carson said Tuesday that he has enough appeal to win the South Carolina primary and plans to branch out beyond the tea party-aligned Republicans who support him the strongest.

“I hope my audience is everybody, not any particular faction,” Carson said Tuesday during a stop in Charleston.

“I think people are going to be, hopefully, listening to the candidates and hopefully listening to the solutions that the candidates have and making decisions based on that,” he said. “And if that’s the case, then I think I have an excellent opportunity.”

Carson’s comments came following a meeting of the Greater Lowcountry Republican Club on James Island where he was the guest speaker.

Carson, who won the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City over the weekend, said one reason he is running is because of the decline of morality in America.

“We’re turning into a country where we are progressively throwing away all of our values for political correctness,” he said.

Carson said he does not support the idea proposed for a Fox News debate of GOP hopefuls in August where only the top 10 of a possible 15 candidates would be allowed on the stage. Preference would go to those with the best polling numbers.

As it now stands, the only Republican woman in the race, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, would be excluded.

Blocking the only woman, “that’s not going to look good,” Carson said. Sponsors have to get “creative” in opening the field, he said.

Among those supporting Carson is Jean Carlton, a retired school psychiatrist who lives in West Ashley and attended Tuesday’s event. She called Carson “right on all the issues,” including that he wants to “get after ISIS before they pick on us.”

Carlton added that he advocates a “paradox” or “pair-of-docs” ticket in 2016, naming Carson and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as her top picks. Paul is also a doctor. “It’s a play on words,” she said.

South Carolina’s primary is likely to be held Feb. 20, 2016.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551