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Ben Carson suggests he will shake up campaign soon

UPPERCO, Md. -- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested in an interview Wednesday that he is moving toward a major shake-up of his struggling campaign, but later sought to tamp down suggestions he would be firing people with just six weeks to go until early voting begins to select party nominees.

In an interview with the Associated Press at his Maryland home - conducted without the knowledge of his own campaign manager - Carson said "personnel changes" could be coming, suggesting he is about to sideline his top aides.

"Everything. Everything is on the table," he said of the potential changes. "Every single thing is on the table. I'm looking carefully."

Carson's longtime business adviser Armstrong Williams put more bluntly: "Dr. Carson is back in charge, and I'm so happy to see that," he said. Williams himself has publicly feuded with the paid political professionals brought in to run Carson's campaign.

But in a statement issued after the interview was published, Carson denied there is a coming staff shakeup.

"I have 100 percent confidence in my campaign team. We have come a long way and accomplished great things together, and together we look forward to winning in Iowa and beyond," he said. "We are refining some operational practices and streamlining some staff assignments to more aptly match the tasks ahead, but my senior team remains in place with my full confidence, and they will continue to execute our campaign plan."

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In a phone interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett not long after the interview, Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett said, "There will be no staff shakeup,."

"Dr. Carson was talking about the need for new strategies and ideas, not people," he said.

Bennett said he was secure in his job as campaign manager, as was senior adviser Ed Brookover, press secretary Deana Bass and national field director Michael Brown.

"I'm good," Bennett said. "We're all good. But we're tired and need a couple of days off."

Stories today indicated Bennett might be in Carson's crosshairs and that the candidate was displeased with his recent fall in the polls and management of campaign expenditures.

The apparent rift between the candidate and his political team comes after his weeks-long slide in preference polls. The political newcomer -a celebrated retired neurosurgeon - briefly surged to the top of the GOP field in October, riding public appeal for more anti-establishment candidates, while making headway with Christian and conservative voters.

Since then, terrorist attacks in Paris and California have shifted the focus of the race to foreign policy and national security, issues Carson had not initially prioritized as part of his campaign platform. Another challenge: He is soft-spoken in a race dominated by tough-talking figures including real estate mogul Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Then there is the internal disarray. Carson had raised $31 million by the end of September, more than any other Republican in the race, but he's outpaced the competition on spending - mostly on fundraising costs rather than critical political infrastructure.

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"I recognize that nothing is perfect," Carson said. "And, yes, we've had enormous fundraising, but that requires that you be efficient in the way you utilize the funds. And, yes, we are looking at all those things."

Carson acknowledged that some of his difficulties were of his making.

He said he must prove to voters that he is his tough and seasoned enough to be commander-in-chief.

"I think I have to directly address the issue," he said, sitting in his basement game room, where the walls around him are covered in decades' worth of accolades.

"The issue that has been put out is that because you are soft-spoken and nice you can't possibly be tough, you can't have the strength to deal with the incredible security problems we now face," Carson said. He added that interpretation "is not true, but I'm now talking about it."

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In recent campaign stops, Carson has started talking more specifically about foreign policy, such as detailing how U.S-led coalition forces can work to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State group's so-called caliphate.

Carson said he plans to announce a more specific strategy when he returns to the trail after Christmas, previewing his plan for Libya. He maintains that too many U.S. leaders, including some of his campaign rivals, have zeroed in on the Islamic State group's activities in Iraq and Syria, while failing to acknowledge they pose a threat beyond those borders.

"They have a global strategy," Carson said, arguing that the U.S. must match it.

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