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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 22nd, 2014
05:51 PM ET

Carson: Being a 'savvy' politician means 'rearranging your priorities,' even on abortion

(CNN) – Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon, a popular figure among conservatives, and, it turns out, a shrewd campaign strategist.

Carson supports Republican Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon hoping to unseat Democrat Jeff Merkley in Oregon.

Wehby has a complicated position on abortion, saying she is personally against it, but does not want the government involved in a woman's decision on whether or not to have one.

Her stance is controversial among many conservatives, but Carson defends her position.

In Oregan "she would not be a viable candidate if she maintained a pro-life stance," Carson wrote in The Washington Times.

"You have to be savvy. If you just do everything based on your principles in a political world, you'll always be doing it from the sidelines," Carson said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

The conservative maintains that doesn't mean selling out, "but it perhaps means rearranging your priorities. If the ship's about to go off Niagara Falls ... you probably shouldn't spend all your time dealing with the barnacles on the side," he says.

The neurosurgeon gained political fame after he publicly criticized some of President Barack Obama's policies in front of the President at last year's National Prayer Breakfast. In his new book "One Nation," Carson writes about Obama's reaction.

"He came over to me afterwards, thanked me for coming and speaking, didn't necessarily say he enjoyed it, but he did thank me and was quite gracious," said Carson.

But organizers of the prayer breakfast talked to him immediately after, telling Carson the White House was very upset, and that he needed to call the President and apologize.

"I said, I didn't get the impression that he was upset, therefore I don't see any reason to do that," said Carson.

For more of our interview with Dr. Ben Carson, check out the video above.

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