(CN) – Just a week after abandoning his own pursuit of the presidency, Dr. Ben Carson, an avowed social conservative, endorsed Donald Trump for president Friday morning during a new conference in West Palm Beach.
Carson’s endorsement comes just four days before the winner-takes-all Florida primary that may prove to be a gamechanger on the road to the White House. If Trump wins Florida, it would likely force Sen. Marco Rubio out of the race, winnowing the billionaire real estate developer’s competition down to two: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
In brief remarks, Carson said his former rival “talks about making America great again, but not just talk, he really means it.”
Carson also warned voters not to be deceived by the blustery theatrics they’ve come to associate with Trump on the campaign trail, saying there’s a difference between the bare-knuckled Trump behind a microphone and the man he’s gotten to know privately.
“He’s cerebral,” Carson said. “Thoughtful.”
Earlier this week Carson said he hadn’t made up his mind who to endorse, but he indicated it was a choice between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
On Friday, Carson said his decision was finalized Thursday morning, after he met with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. (A luxury club Trump owns.)
Privately, Republican officials said the endorsement by Carson could go a long way toward enhancing Trump’s standings among conservatives generally, social conservatives in particular and among black voters.
But during Thursday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate in Miami, Trump offered another factor, Carson’s views on education.
Indeed, among evangelicals Carson’s stance on education was one of his largest attributes.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2015, Carson blasted the U.S. Dept. of Education, saying it was “increasingly trying to dictate how children are educated in our primary and secondary schools.”
He, like Trump has done since, has called for an end to Common Core, standards promulgated by the Dept. of Education that outline what students must know at every grade level. They were released in 2010, and implementation in 45 states and the District of Columbia began four years later.
Conservatives immediately expressed alarm over the standards, claiming the federal agency was usurping state responsibility for education and undermining parental input into what and how their children are taught.
“Our education system must be run by involved parents and engaged teachers and principals,” Carson says in a post on his website. “Any attempt by faceless federal bureaucrats to take over our local schools must be defeated.”
He’s also called for the expanded use of school vouchers, maintaining “we know that the best education is home school, the next is private schools, the next is charter schools, the next is public schools.”
“If we want to change that dynamic we’ve got to offer some real competition to the public schools,” he told the Washington Examiner newspaper in November 2015.
Though he languished in contest after contest, Carson position on education does resonate with some votes.
In Charleston, S.C., ahead of the Republican primary there, Emily Lane, a mother of three, said Carson had been her early favorite among the candidates due to his “strong faith, extremely conservative values and his support for home schooling.”
She added that all of her children were being home schooled.
Trump said as his campaign moves forward, Carson will play a “big, big part” in it.
Asked by a reporter whether he and Carson had put some the nastiness of the presidential race behind them, Trump suggested they both understood it was just part of politics.
“I thought New York real estate was tough,” Trump said. “This is a really tough business.”
He also said that no deal was made to secure Carson’s endorsement.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this,” Trump said. “Ben called and simply said, ‘I want to help.'”
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