WASHINGTON -- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson endorsed real estate developer Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination Friday, one week after he ended his own rival campaign and days before another round of important primaries in Florida, Ohio and other states.
Carson claimed there are "two different Donald Trumps," one public and one private, and said he saw the "very cerebral" version as the best bet for the White House.
The doctor's endorsement did not come as a major surprise, given that he said when he ended his campaign that he wanted other Republicans to stop criticizing Trump. "People who think Donald Trump would be the worst thing that ever happened ... you make a really big mistake by trying to thwart the will of the people," Carson said then.
He echoed that idea Friday, suggesting the Republican Party establishment has sought to "thwart the will of the people."
Trump said Carson is now a "friend" and said he was impressed by Carson's response to the baiting the front-runner subjected him to in recent months.
Carson is popular among evangelicals, and his endorsement may help Trump win credibility in that segment of Republican voters. The announcement could be a way for the front-runner to steal some support from his major Republican rival, evangelical-friendly Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
But Carson's comments may provide fodder to the other Republicans competing for the nomination because it could undermine what voters appear to prize about him: his apparent authenticity.
BuzzFeed's Ben Smith already called that authenticity into question last month when he suggested that Trump had taken a softer line on immigration in a private meeting with The New York Times than he has in public.
"So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?" Smith wrote.