Ben Carson: "Idiotic" to say I can only do neurosurgery

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is quickly catching up to Trump in polls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has been accused by critics of only being good enough for the operating room but not the White House. His response? "Ridiculous," Carson said Sunday.

"I find it quite humorous when people say, 'he's an idiot savant,'" Carson said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Just the fact that they would say something like that - they don't know what it takes to become a neurosurgeon. That's pretty idiotic itself."

New CBS Poll: Trump on top, with Carson close behind

Carson is the number two choice of Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to the new CBS News Battleground Tracker poll released Sunday. In Iowa, he came within four points of fellow candidate Donald Trump, who was the first choice of 29 percent of voters.

The neurosurgeon said he was "gratified" to see the numbers and that it showed people are paying attention to what he's saying rather than the way he is portrayed. Trump has been one of the critics in recent days, implying Carson has low energy and saying he was an "okay doctor." In a separate "Face the Nation" interview Sunday, he said Carson wouldn't make a good president because he's "not a dealmaker" or a "negotiator."

Trump speaks out on Carson: “Ben’s a doctor, not a deal-maker”

Carson said his "multifaceted" life that took him through various socioeconomic levels and to the private sector make him qualified to be president. Citing his years on the corporate boards of Kellogg and Costco, he said, "you get an enormous amount of experience doing those things." He also pointed to the success of his nonprofit, the Carson Scholars Fund, which he said has won national awards and succeeded despite the high failure rate for new nonprofits.

Dr. Carson: America needs to put our talents together

For him, humility is one of the most important qualities for a commander in chief.

"You need to be able to listen. One of the things that I've discovered throughout the many things that I've been involved in is that we have some incredibly talented people in this country," he said. "There's nobody who knows everything but we have an incredibly talent-filled nation."

As for whether Trump is humble enough to be president, Carson said, "That will be a decision that the voters will make."

Ben Carson on immigration: Border politics is “disgusting”

He also expanded on how he would handle immigration as president. Carson has criticized Trump's immigration plan - which includes mass deportation - as unworkable because of the legal complications and high costs. But he said he would "certainly be interested in hearing" a plan to deport undocumented workers if it could actually be done.

If elected, he promised to seal the border within the first year and "turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies so people don't have any incentive to come here."

As for people already in the country illegally, Carson said, "We have to recognize that we can't just round them up but we can give them an opportunity to register." He proposed a six-month registration period, and said that those who have a "pristine record" and "haven't been causing problems" could become guest workers.

"I think that will be a fair way to do it," he said. "In terms of them becoming citizens later on down the road if they've done things the right way, we the American people will decide what the criteria for that will be."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.