Ben Carson says he’s staying in campaign for Nevada caucuses

MAYA T. PRABHU/STAFF Dr. Ben Carson and supporter Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., field questions from the press during a campaign stop in Columbia on Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — Dr. Ben Carson said that no matter the results of Saturday’s South Carolina primary, he intends to continue his campaign for president.

“The thing that leads me on is not so much what the vote tally is, it’s a matter of how many people do you have supporting you,” he told members of the press Wednesday.

Carson said the campaign has enough money to move forward and that he knows he has the support of millions of Americans.

“We have a lot people saying, ‘Don’t you dare drop out,’ ” he said. “So I’m not getting out. I’m going on to Nevada, there’s no question about that.”

The retired neurosurgeon is getting about 6 percent of the vote in South Carolina, based on an average of polls by Real Clear Politics.

Carson said he believes that if he continues meeting supporters and undecided voters to get his message out his levels will return to the numbers he saw in November when he was polling at 28 percent among South Carolina voters.

“We’re going to keep talking to people, giving them an opportunity to actually hear what our policies are,” he said.

U.S. Rep Andy Harris, R-Md., who on Wednesday became the first congressman to endorse Carson, was with Carson as they fielded questions about post-traumatic stress disorder and gun rights in front of about 50 people, mostly veterans, at the Ramada Inn in Columbia.

Carson stressed the need to tackle all mental health issues, as well as PTSD, because it can lead to those people being left homeless or in the penal system.

“If you look at the carnage that is caused by these people, would that not be even greater than the resources that are needed to take care of them?” he said.

But suffering from mental health issues should not automatically prohibit someone from being able to have a gun, Carson said.

“I think it should be looked at case by case,” he said. “If someone has PTSD or a traumatic brain injury we want to make sure that they are mentally stable to own a gun. But those things alone should not preclude them from having a gun.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran James Sutherland of Lexington said he recently decided to support Carson because he believes the doctor can improve veteran issues, especially for former military members who have suffered injuries.

“The president and Cabinet members need to hash out something to help disabled veterans in this country so they’re not scraping by,” he said.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.