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Republican U.S. presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson officially launches his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in Detroit, May 4, 2015.
Rebecca Cook—Reuters

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson launched a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, promising to run a different kind of campaign and proving the point with one of the most unusual campaign launches in recent memory.

The Detroit event featured the candidate’s wife playing violin on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a gospel choir covering Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and a men’s vocal group singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel,” among other things.

Wearing a headset microphone and speaking with a doctor’s never-varying bedside manner, Carson recounted his troubled childhood, told a few corny jokes, lambasted liberal utopianism, discussed his Christian faith and promised to return the U.S. Constitution “to the top shelf.”

“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I don’t want to be a politician because politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”

Like many candidates, Carson used his personal story to sketch out his vision of America and introduce himself to voters. He recounted how his mother, who had only a third-grade education, scraped together money working two jobs while raising him alone, joking that the United States wouldn’t have a deficit if she were secretary of the Treasury.

He also recalled witnessing dire poverty as a child, living among rats and roaches and recalling when he and other children were saddened by the death of a drug dealer who used to bring them candy.

On policy, Carson called for creating a special tax holiday to allow big businesses to bring foreign earnings back to the U.S., reducing the federal deficit and cutting social programs that “create dependency.”

Carson faces an uphill battle for the nomination, coming in toward the back of the crowded GOP pack in most polls.

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