A group trying to draft Ben Carson to run for president in 2016 has bought seven billboards in the Baltimore region aimed partly at voters but also at the Hopkins neurosurgeon himself.
"We wanted Dr. Carson to be able to see the billboards on the way into work," said Vernon Robinson, treasurer of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.
Carson became a prominent figure in conservative circles after criticizing President Barack Obama's health care law at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington last year. He has generally demurred when asked about his political ambitions, but has left the door open to seeking a political career -- telling the Sean Hannity radio program last month that he could run if "God was calling me" to.
The electronic billboards, including one located along southbound I-83 in Baltimore, show a picture of Carson alongside the words "Get America Out of the ICU."
Carson could not be reached for comment, though in a statement to the Washington Times last month he disavowed any connection to the draft committee.
"I have not authorized any solicitation of funds in my name or likeness," he said in that statement.
Carson retired from Hopkins in June and now serves as professor emeritus of neurosurgery. He writes a weekly column for the Washington Times, frequently appears on FOX News and is working on another book, according to a website for a Towson-based foundation that bears his name.
Carson faced criticism last year for likening homosexuality to pedophilia in a television interview. He stepped down as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine amid the controversy.
Robinson, a North Carolina resident who said he is currently campaigning for Carson in Iowa, said the committee will report raising $1.54 million is a disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission next week. The billboards have also gone up in that state, which holds the nation's first presidential caucus.
"The draft committee believes that Dr. Carson is the only person who can beat Hillary Clinton," Robinson said of the former Democratic Secretary of State, who is widely considered a potential candidate but who has not yet said whether she will run.
"No other Republican candidates are catching fire and the American people are still clamoring for him to run," he said.