Ben Carson Resists 'Gladiator' Battle With Donald Trump, Dismisses Insults

As former pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson rises in the polls, he has taken a very different approach to dealing with 2016 Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from many of his opponents.

After Carson made a comment last week appearing to question Trump's religious faith, he apologized in multiple interviews, suggesting the media misrepresented his comments to create a conflict between the leading Republican candidates.

New polls released Monday further solidified Trump and Carson's positions at the top of the Republican field. A Washington Post/ABC News national poll found Trump leading with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents with 33%, Carson with 20%, and Jeb Bush a distant third with 8%.

With Carson now sharing the campaign spotlight as the second Republican debate approaches, media attention has focused on the matchup between him and Trump, but Carson has been cautious in taking on the front-runner. Political observers say that resistance to negative campaigning is part of his appeal.

Trump's attacks on Carson have not been as sharp or relentless as those he has launched against other candidates like Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul.

"Calling him an okay doctor is not going to be an effective line of attack," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

If Trump is going to criticize Carson, O'Connell said, "What he needs to be focusing on is, does Carson have the qualifications to run the country."

Carson's unique position in the Republican field may contribute to his strategy. He and Trump are both vying for the support of angry anti-establishment voters, so if he can sell himself as the more responsible, mature version of an outsider candidate, he could poach some of Trump's backers.

"What he's trying to do is show that he's the adult outsider," O'Connell said.

Carson has the highest favorability rating among Republicans of all the GOP hopefuls, and going negative on Trump could damage that.

"He has a likeability that's worth his weight in gold," O'Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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