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Politics / Issues

Crowds Greet Ben Carson for Tampa Book Signing

Throngs of political fans crowded into the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Tampa's Carrollwood neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, to meet and get a book signed by the latest Republican presidential front-runner, Ben Carson.

The line of fans started in the parking lot of the bookstore on North Dale Mabry Highway, and snaked through the store, where Vickie O'Donnell of Land O'Lakes stood as the second person in line.

"We've been here since 5:30 (a.m.) this morning," she said.

When asked why she likes Carson so much, O'Donnell said "because he has honor and integrity, and he is not a full-time political person."

O'Donnell braved these Black Friday-like lines not in search of the latest plasma TV, but a glimpse of Carson, a Palm Beach neurosurgeon who has reached the top of the national GOP polls. Her husband Bill O'Donnell said he thinks Carson is just what the country needs.

"I don't think he'll let his ego get in his way," he said. "He will surround himself with the best, as he did when he performed surgery. He surrounded himself with the best, he educated himself on what he needed to do, and I think he'll do that for the country."

Crowds greet Ben Carson
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
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WUSF News
Crowds green Ben Carson at the book signing

Carson spoke briefly  to reporters and fans after signing hundreds of copies of his new book. He said his message is unity.

"The main message I want to get across to people is that we, as a nation, are a great nation. We're a wonderful place with a wonderful history and we need not be ashamed of it," said Carson, who has taken a two-week break from official campaigning to promote his most recent in a series of non-fiction books.

"And our spirit and our unity - we need to stop listening to the purveyors of the vision that would make us think that there's a war going on with everything. And we need to understand what our financial condition is, because we're jeopardizing the future for the next generation."

"We need to have policies that are forward-looking, rather than reactive," he continued. "We have to deal with things like our electric grid and our failure to be active in space. Our failure to fortify our military in an increasingly hostile world. We have to be able to play on a chessboard when we're playing with Putin - not just reacting to what he's doing, but making it with our own moves. Those are the things we have to do, and I think the American people know we have to do. And that's why they're so sick of politics as usual."

Carson is on a statewide book signing tour this week. He visited the Panhandle before visiting Tampa, and went on to a signing in Lakeland Tuesday night. He is in Sarasota at noon Wednesday.