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Ben Carson, Republican darling, hits Colorado Springs

Last weekend, when he wasn't signing books in Colorado Springs on Saturday and speaking at two local church services on Sunday, Dr. Ben Carson debated Rev. Jesse Jackson on FOX News about racial issues in Ferguson, Mo., and won an important straw poll at a Polk County Republican Party dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, crushing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by 55 percentage points.

All this from a 62-year-old retired neurosurgeon who isn't currently a candidate for any office.

Still, it's Carson's chance at taking the White House in 2016 for religious conservatives that had hundreds of people lined up outside a hulking Christian bookstore on Powers Boulevard early Saturday, hoping to meet the author of One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future, which is currently in the No. 2 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for hardcover nonfiction.

It was a fairly diverse-looking bunch stretching across four big-box stores Saturday morning, with an elderly man in a Texas Longhorns hat and Ben Carson pin wishing those at the end of the line to "be of good cheer." Yet parking-lot bumper stickers struck a consistent tone, with "Warning: Due to price increases on ammo, do not expect a warning shot," and "Lord deliver us from Benghazi," and "Give Hick the Hook," referencing Colorado's current governor.

It's Carson's rhetoric, frequently delivered via opinion gigs with FOX and the Washington Times, that compelled cars to clog Powers again the next day, and people to stream into Church for All Nations, where Carson sold his book in the lobby for $25 and twice delivered a speech that closely followed the one he gave at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, which launched him into the conservative spotlight.

"I don't know about you, but I am absolutely thrilled that I was born in America and had a chance to grow up here: It's a wonderful place," Carson said after opening with a prayer that his words be God's words.

Apparently God was raised in the inner city by a poor mother who herself was one of 24 children and ended up marrying a bigamist at age 13.

"I remember telling that story at a graduation at University of Utah," Carson joked. "Nobody thought it was that strange."

It's that free-swinging attitude that the former Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon waves like a banner.

"You've probably figured it out already: I'm not politically correct," he said later. "I really think it is a destructive force in our country and it keeps people from talking."

People are certainly talking about what Carson has said, as in March 2013, when he put gay-marriage proponents in a list that included supporters of bestiality and pedophilia, or five months later, when he called the Affordable Care Act "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

Yet Carson seems to be speaking some Republicans' language, with the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, a Super PAC known as "Run, Ben, Run," having drawn $7.3 million in donations so far, according to opensecrets.org.

And though he hasn't confirmed that he will run, with the question of who will control the Senate after November looming large, Carson already is reminiscent in some ways of another religious African-American candidate who drew grassroots support after writing a few books and delivering a killer speech — and he made it to the White House.

bryce@csindy.com

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