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Dec 21, 2015 11:45 PM

Steinhauser: Talking 1-on-1 with NH1 News, Carson fights perceptions he's weak on national security

NH1 Political Director -

MANCHESTER – Ben Carson says “our primary goal right now is to destroy ISIS.”

The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate spelled out his strategy to take down ISIS while taking questions at national security forum Monday that hosted by Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security and moderated by this reporter.

“We don’t contain them. We have to destroy them, because it’s like an infestation,” Carson added.

It’s the latest example of Carson trying to bone up on national security and foreign policy as he beefs up his credentials.

In October Carson was battling Donald Trump for front runner status in the national polls in the race for the GOP nomination. But following the horrific terror attacks on Paris last month and this month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Carson’s seen his poll numbers slip thanks to the perception by many voters that the first-time politician is not commander-in-chief material.

In a one-on-one interview with NH1 News following the forum at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, Carson fought back against such perceptions.

“All they have to do is listen to me. Listen to me and listen to the other people who are talking. You know you’ve gotta get out of your mind that because this guys is a doctor he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and listen to what he’s saying,” Carson said. “Listen to what other people are saying. Make your decision based on what’s being said. Not on how somebody is being characterized.”

Asked how he can turn his poll numbers around, Carson said “I think as people are able to hear things like this forum today, various interviews that I do, and it will begin to dawn on them, you know this guy knows as much about this as anybody. And I trust in the people to recognize that they can’t allow themselves to be manipulated. We can’t continue to go down the same roads.”

While two of Carson’s rivals for the nomination, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, have been quite vocal recently in their criticism of Trump, Carson’s more reserved in his judgement. He told NH1 News that Trump’s “resulted in a lot of people getting energized who perhaps would not have been in there before. I do think that there are better candidates but that’s why we’re doing this whole process. Let the people decide. I for one will abide by the will of the people.”

Carson touted his fundraising, saying that “as of last week we crossed a milestone, one million donations from ordinary Americans. And that is continuing and it is wondering. And that’s the way it should be. It’s the only special interest group that I owe anything to is the American people.

Carson was in the first-in-the-nation primary state on the day that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ended his longshot bid for the GOP nomination. Carson said “I’ll be going to South Carolina tomorrow. Maybe I’ll see him. I’ll certainly welcome his endorsement, but to me it’s not so much about endorsements of this politician or that politician but the endorsement of the people.”

With Christmas closing in, Carson said “we will be able to take a little time off. I’m actually very, very, happy about that, to be able to spend time with the whole family.”

Carson, who infuses his faith into his politics and policy, is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He said that Christmas time is “very special to me… because Christ is my savior. And I understand the real reason for the season, which is why I say Merry Christmas to people, which is a salutation of good will and cheer. It doesn’t matter what your background is. It’s just like if somebody comes up to me during their season and they say happy whatever, I’m going to be delighted. It won’t offend me in anyway if I’m not a member of their particular religion.”

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