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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Ben Carson has a knack for making traditional conservatives feel good about themselves.

The retired pediatric neurosurgeon has confounded Republican political veterans (at least those not working for Carson) with his rise to the top of their party's presidential field. He's soft spoken and methodical in a political environment that tends to reward loud and fast. If you will, Carson, 64, is stubbornly Facebook in the age of Instagram.

But sift through the superficial appeal — the quasi celebrity status he earned for his groundbreaking work as an African American doctor, his inspiring rags-to-riches story and the rhetorical dog whistles precision-programmed to attract conservative voters, and the underpinning of Carson's success — what's really propelling the first-time candidate's 2016 bid, reveals itself.

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