Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who briefly led the Republican presidential race before his campaign began an extended public implosion, will tell his supporters in a statement Wednesday afternoon that he does not see a “path forward” and will not attend Thursday’s debate in Detroit, according to two Republicans familiar with his plans.
Carson, however, will not formally suspend his campaign. Instead, the Republicans said, he has decided to make a speech about his political future on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, just outside of Washington.
But the announcement will serve as an acknowledgment that Carson’s candidacy is all but over following a disappointing showing in the 11 states that held contests on Tuesday.
The decision follows months of candidate stumbles, staff infighting and strategy shifts derailing what had once appeared to be an unstoppable journey to conservative super¬stardom. It also marks the coming departure of the only major the only major African American candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
Carson, 64, burst onto the political scene in early 2013 when, addressing the typically nonpartisan National Prayer Breakfast, he spoke about the dangers of political correctness, put forward the idea of a flat tax and criticized President Obama’s health-care law. What made it stand out is that he did it right beside a steely-faced Obama.
That week, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled “Ben Carson for President.” By August of that year, there was a “National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.” Before he launched his presidential bid in this past May, the group had raised close to $16 million, gotten a half-million signatures encouraging Carson to run and had 30,000 active volunteers across the country, according to organizers.
The media whirlwind was hardly his first brush with fame. Before he took the conservative world by storm, Carson was famous for an up-from-his-bootstraps life story, from impoverished childhood to a high-profile neurosurgery career. He was, at 33, the youngest major division director in Johns Hopkins Hospital history, and he was the first pediatric neurosurgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head. He wrote a best-selling book, “Gifted Hands,” about his life, which later became a television movie.
The same bluntness that catapulted him into contention in a year that favored plain-spoken insurgents and outsider candidates earned him criticism as well. He found himself in political hot water for calling the Affordable Care Act the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” saying the current-day United States is “very much like Nazi Germany” and predicting that allowing same-sex marriage could lead to legalized bestiality.
Even his political team admitted from the start that perhaps he needed to work on his messaging. “If I could create the Webster’s dictionary of words Dr. Carson could use in the campaign, there would be some words I’d leave out,” his former campaign chairman, Terry Giles, told The Washington Post before Carson officially jumped into the race in May. Later, when Donald Trump grabbed headlines, the usually mild-mannered Carson was urged to dial it up and take the mogul on more aggressively.
Carson resisted that advice as well. Until the end, he sought to offer himself to Republicans as a calm and steady hand, untouched by Washington.
“Many people told me that this business is corrupt, that it’s evil, that it’s how it’ll always be,” Carson said in a phone interview Monday. “But I don’t believe that we have to accept that. We should rail against that, fight against it, and get something that’s decent and inspirational.”
His performance may have played a role in his political undoing. Even as his “politically incorrect” style played well in places with staunchly conservative bases, his apparent unfamiliarity with many policy fundamentals, particularly on national security issues, made some voters wary.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Robert Costa and Ben Terris