Ben Carson will try to prove he has a handle on foreign affairs during a surprise visit with Syrian refugees in Jordan on Friday. "I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression," Carson told the New York Times before setting off for the UN refugee camp in Azraq on Thursday. NBC News also confirmed the trip. "I want to hear some of their stories, I want to hear from some of the officials what their perspective is," he said. "All of that is extraordinarily useful in terms of formulating an opinion of how to actually solve the problem." He added he'll be handing out soccer balls and Beanie Babies as he visits a clinic, hospital, women's and girls' center, and an "adolescent-friendly space." He's expected to return to the US on Sunday.
Since the Paris terror attacks, Carson's poll numbers have been dropping, especially in Iowa where he was once leading. One Quinnipiac University poll shows him down 10 points since October, perhaps due to concerns about his grasp on foreign policy. Asked if voters felt he wasn't the right person to lead when terrorism fears are high, Carson said, "I would agree with that assessment," but "that's why it's a good thing it's a marathon, not a sprint. As time goes on they will begin to listen more carefully to what I'm saying." Carson recently drew heat for explaining that he opposes accepting Syrian refugees into the US because the result could be "a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood." He also seemed baffled when asked to name the countries he would call to form an anti-Islamic State coalition. (Read more Ben Carson stories.)