Ben Carson made the decision to drop out of the presidential race on Super Tuesday, watching the returns come in from Baltimore.
“I realized that things were probably not going to change, and therefore I said, ‘What really is the point?’” he told reporters on Friday night at a press conference after officially suspending his candidacy at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I’m endorsing ‘we the people,’” he said, cagily refusing to tell NBC who he was voting for in Florida’s upcoming primary and declining to endorse another candidate.
“Now that I am leaving the campaign trail,” Carson said 10 minutes into his address, almost as an aside. The crowd, realizing that he was making a statement of official suspension, drowned out the rest of his sentence with a standing ovation. Reporters later asked him to affirm this was his official suspension.
“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said, in what’s perhaps the most clear-eyed summary of his failed bid. Despite enjoying enormous favorability, jam-packed crowds and extremely successful fundraising efforts, the campaign just couldn’t get his voters out.
Later speaking with reporters, Carson said this disparity was “because a lot of them have been convinced that I can’t win, and that it would be a waste of a vote, and that’s been a narrative that’s been put out there for months, and it worked.”
Carson credited his failed bid to an onslaught of negative attacks and his own mismanagement of his presidential campaign. “There’s no question I should have done a better job of monitoring what was going on. I placed trust where I shouldn’t have,” he said. His campaign has been criticized for paying consultants huge sums to raise money through direct mail campaigns, and his campaign was mired by a massive shakeup over the holidays, when staffers resigned amid a conflict with one of Carson’s friends, Armstrong Williams, whom staffers said was undermining their work.
Carson told the CPAC audience he would join the super PAC My Faith Votes, a group that aims to mobilize Christian voters. “I will still continue to be heavily involved to try and save our nation – we have to save it,” he said.
Carson brought to the race a serene and deeply religious demeanor with a rags-to-riches story so incredible it has its own made-for-TV movie. He was an outsider in the year everyone wanted one, a calm voice in a race marked by insinuations about a candidate’s manhood and a health care professional in a race that centered around repealing Obamacare.
But as front-runner Donald Trump’s bombast soared, the billionaire’s success and big promises prevailed over Carson’s more humble approach.
And while Carson’s special combination of personality and life experiences put him on the map, it also may have hurt his ability to compete against his rivals.
Later, when Ted Cruz’s campaign spread rumors that Carson was getting out of the race during the Iowa caucuses, a cautious Carson shied from blaming the Texas senator — only eventually and obliquely chastising Cruz when furious aides showed him proof of Cruz’s grassroots supporters’ efforts to woo his supporters at the last minute.
Time and time again, aides said America would see a feistier Carson in the debates, but that version of the candidate failed to appear. As the infighting grew, Carson didn’t just stay out of the mud: He was largely left out.
“Please, will someone attack me?” he said in a CNN debate last week — now known to be his final — only to be ignored.