Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson will end his presidential bid, saying that Super Tuesday’s election results left him with no “political path forward.”
The announcement marks the closing chapter of a run that showed flashes of promise and fundraising prowess, but suffered a steep fall after Carson’s lack of fluency on foreign policy issues became glaring.
“I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results,” Carson said in the statement.
Armstrong Williams, a longtime Carson confidant, said the retired neurosurgeon doesn’t intend to endorse any of his rivals and has no interest in a bid for any other political office. Rather, he said, he’ll likely enter the world of policy advocacy on issues ranging from education to the national debt.
“I’m sure he won’t support anyone. He will support the eventual nominee,” Williams said.
Williams also emphasized that Carson isn’t quitting the race at the urging of any of his rivals or as part of a bargain. Reports floating around Tuesday night hinted that he had been offered support for a Senate bid in exchange for his departure from the race, but Williams said Carson was not interested.
“He’s not gonna come out of this bruising campaign and go back into the frying pan,” he said.
Carson said that he will skip Thursday’s GOP debate in his hometown of Detroit and will formally address his political future during a speech on Friday at CPAC in the Washington area, but he left no doubt that his quest for the Republican nomination was coming to an end. It follows predictions by allies that Carson would await the results of Super Tuesday before deciding whether to quit.
The announcement comes after Carson had a dismal showing in the dozen states that voted on Tuesday, finishing at the back of the GOP field in the race’s early primaries. And the tone marks a sharp reversal from his comments on Tuesday evening, when he said he had no plans to bow out.
“I am not moved or discouraged when the political class count me out,” Carson said in a statement after polls closed Tuesday. “Millions of Americans plead with me to continue … As long we continue to receive their support, and the Lord keeps opening doors, I will remain in this presidential race.”
Bob Dees, Carson’s campaign chairman, said in a statement to supporters on Wednesday that it was time to face reality.
“No doubt many of you have tears as you read this, just as I tearfully write these words — tearfully because the reality is that our political efforts must come to a close,” Dees said in the email.
The retired neurosurgeon briefly rivaled Donald Trump at the top of the polls last year, but plummeted after suffering a number of foreign policy stumbles.
Though Carson faded back to the middle of the pack and his campaign was rocked by internal turmoil that led to a complete leadership overhaul in January, Carson maintained a core of support among religious conservatives that gave him hope for a comeback that never materialized. His fundraising stabilized in January and spiked to $5 million in February before he ended his bid.Conservatives had gravitated toward Carson in the fall as a mild-mannered alternative to Donald Trump. He stirred controversy in September when he suggested a Muslim shouldn’t be president — a comment that ended up deepening his support on the right. He has also compared Obamacare to slavery and suggested the Holocaust would have been less severe if the Jews were armed.
Carson’s campaign also came under scrutiny for its hard-to-track spending. He raised more money than any of his rivals in 2015 — built on an expensive direct mail and telephone solicitation operation — but burned through most of it by the time the calendar flipped, raising questions about his campaign’s spending discipline and the costly consultants cashing in on the lucrative operation.
In his statement on Wednesday, Carson included a nod to his financial network. “I appreciate the support, financial and otherwise, from all corners of America. Gratefully, my campaign decisions are not constrained by finances; rather by what is in the best interests of the American people,” he said.