Andrew Dys

What will Ben Carson say Wednesday in Rock Hill?

Sharon Furr got a photo with Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson during an October book-signing stop in Rock Hill.
Sharon Furr got a photo with Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson during an October book-signing stop in Rock Hill. Special to The Herald

Ben Carson is not exciting. He is not loud. He speaks in a quiet monotone.

He is, well, boring.

The retired neurosurgeon has had problems dealing with pushy reporters, and problems with some Republicans who claim that he lacks the experience and the basic political savvy to be president. Pundits continue to say his popularity is bound to fall – but Carson has hung tough.

And his supporters – who are expected to pack Winthrop Coliseum for a town hall style event Wednesday – don’t care what the “liberal media” has to say, or what pundits say, or what politicians say.

Calm, quiet Ben Carson, who has never been elected to anything ever, is exactly what they want.

Tom Audette, a Fort Mill school board member, father and husband, said Carson’s style is “thoughtful and refreshing.”

“Ben Carson is a unifier,” said Sheila Reiland, 62, a nurse and grandmother from Lake Wylie. “These disputes that politicians have between men and women, between black and white, are just political ploys, and Ben Carson speaks to that.”

Reiland is going with a group of people who support Carson for who he is – and for who he isn’t.

“Ben Carson is not a politician,” Reiland said. “He’s one of us, the people.”

Carson has been criticized for not having even a general grasp of the problems the country faces – particularly when it comes to foreign policy – yet he is still a strong second to Donald Trump in South Carolina polls leading up to the Feb. 20 primary, the first in the South.

In fact, several candidates who spend time talking about their knowledge of the issues are so far down in the polls, it takes a microscope to find those supposedly bright candidates.

People who back Carson say his regular-guy appeal, his basic goodness and experience as a surgeon, are exactly why they support him. They don’t want the others who come from a political class or will say and do almost anything to get attention, as Trump seems to be saying and doing.

At an October book-signing event in Rock Hill, which drew hundreds despite a steady rain, Carson made no apologies for his stances on everything from opposing gun control to whether a Muslim should be president.

“Ben Carson is quiet and calm; he will be the strong leader that we need to run this country,” said Joyce Jackson, 46, of Clover. “You don’t have to jump up and down and call people names to be president.”

America has “had enough for so many years of politicians,” said Jackson, who hopes to be able to ask a question during the forum.

State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, will be on stage with Carson as an intermediary between the audience and the candidate. Pope, who has declared himself a candidate for governor in 2018, has not endorsed Carson. He agreed to moderate at the request of party officials who wanted his public speaking abilities to mesh with the expected crowd.

And while no one knows yet what the crowd will ask – Carson has been effective in friendly venues, but stumbled several times in front of media questions or with other candidates at debates – his supporters say they expect Carson to answer their questions in his quiet, direct manner.

“Ben Carson is a realist,” said Josh Adams, 31, a Fort Mill auto mechanic. “He is not a politician. He speaks his mind, and he is smart.”

Adams likes how Carson puts his Christian faith out front and will not back down from it. That appeal transcends age and gender and brings a large portion of Republican voters together.

John Hunter, 87, from York who for years was the principal at York High School before decades of Republican political activism in York County, said Carson is a candidate who can run the country.

“Number one, Dr. Carson is a Christian,” Hunter said. “Number two, he is very intelligent. Number three, he is smart and practical at the same time – and not all candidates have both. He ran a big operation at a hospital. He is the kind of fellow who can run the country.”