By AT News Team, Feb. 26, 2015:   Dr. Ben Carson, a devout Adventist and retired brain surgeon, was the first speaker Wednesday morning (Feb. 25) on the opening day of the yearly Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He was among a long list of speakers interested in running for president in next year’s American elections and ranked number two in a straw poll of the activists in attendance.

CPAC is not a political party but includes the grass roots of right-wing politics in America. Almost all of the speakers are affiliated with the Republican Party and the party leaders view CPAC as representing a key segment within their party.

The presidential preference poll of registered participants in CPAC gave the greatest support (25 percent) to Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, according to the CBS television network. Carson was supported by 18 percent of the participants while 17 percent supported Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and the son and brother of two former U.S. presidents. Ten percent supported Michael Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and Baptist pastor.

Carson is the only African American candidate among a host of people who are interested in becoming the candidate of the Republican Party. A Gallup Poll in December ranked him as sixth among “the most admired men in America.” More admired were President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, evangelist Billy Graham and former president George W. Bush. In a tie for sixth place were Carson, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Bill O’Reilly.

Carson has not formally announced he is running for president, but he has begun to hire a campaign team. Prospective campaign manager Terry Giles has announced that Houston businessman Jeff Reeter will serve as Carson’s national finance chairman and Amy Pass, who raised money for Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, will serve as Carson’s national finance director.

“Reeter and Pass add to Carson’s growing political team,” reported The Hill. “Last week, Carson hired Mike Murray, the president and CEO of TMA Direct, a direct marketing firm, to serve as a senior adviser. Carson also has … a leadership PAC that has collected millions of dollars, and a movement to draft him as a candidate with a presence in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.” Iowa is the first state where decisions will be made about presidential candidates for 2016.

Carson is “getting close to that ‘first tier’ status,” stated the National Review. “He’s currently third in Iowa, second in PPP’s national poll, at 9 percent in Texas, which is good for fourth; 8 percent in California, which is good for fourth; and at 13 percent in South Carolina, which is tied for third.”

Although it is early in the two years of politics leading up to the election of the next president in the U.S., Carson clearly has a chance of becoming the first Adventist to hold that office. President Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, had an Adventist mother, sister and brother, but was not a church member himself. He appointed his brother-in-law, Pastor Heber Votaw, a returned missionary from Burma and later a General Conference staff member, as the administrator of Federal prisons.