September 22, 2014 8:23 PM EDT

Conservative firebrand Ben Carson said Monday that “the likelihood is strong” that he’ll run for president in 2016.

The author and retired neurosurgeon told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would make up his mind before May of next year. “Unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives, I think the likelihood is strong,” Carson said. The untested figure would face an uphill battle reaching out to moderate Republicans and swing voters.

Carson rose to the national prominence in 2013 when he eviscerated President Barack Obama’s tax policies and the Affordable Care Act while delivering remarks at the bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast. He has built a considerable following in conservative circles with a number of political action committees, including a new super PAC announced last week named “USA First.”

Carson told Hewitt he believes he can hold his own in a Republican field likely to be dominated by more experienced politicians from Washington and statehouses across the country, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco rubio. ” I’ve been talking all of my life,” he said. “And I will continue to talk. You know, I will never be a politician. I will tell you that right of the bat.”

Carson has won or finished near the top of several conservative straw polls, and a “National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee” has raised more than $7 million, though much of the money has found its way into the pockets of GOP operatives.


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