There was a point in October when Ben Carson was not only a notable Republican presidential candidate, he actually looked like a credible contender. National polls showed the retired neurosurgeon reaching second place, and the week before Halloween, Carson took the lead in Iowa polling.
His status as a top-tier candidate was, however, short-lived. Carson's campaign started to deteriorate soon after, and his performance in primaries and caucuses has been abysmal. He finished a distant fourth in Iowa, eighth in New Hampshire, sixth in South Carolina, fourth in Nevada, and no better than fourth in any Super Tuesday state.
Carson could keep fighting, but even he no longer sees the point.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson announced Wednesday he would not attend the next GOP debate in Detroit, admitting that his poor primary performance left him without much of a plan. "I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening's Super Tuesday primary results," Carson said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Note, this does not represent a formal suspension or withdrawal. Rather, Carson will reportedly exit the race during remarks on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, though there's been no official confirmation of this.
For all intents and purposes, though, it appears that Cason is now finished, as evidenced by his willingness to bow out of tomorrow night's debate.
Though it's best not to kick a candidate when he or she is down, it's only fair to characterize Carson as an unqualified, and at times baffling, candidate whose campaign seemed to lack any purpose whatsoever. After months of allegations that his entire operation resembled some kind of fundraising scam, Carson himself recently conceded that even he's not sure about the motivations of his finance team.
Making matters much worse, the GOP candidate himself had bizarre policy recommendations, ridiculous theories about history and science, and no meaningful understanding of current events, both in terms of domestic and foreign policy.
None of this seemed to hurt his candidacy, though, at least not until evidence emerged that Carson exaggerated many elements of his personal background, which I'd argue was the beginning of the end for his campaign. Carson's support rested on a foundation of perceived honesty and an inspirational life story, and when both took a severe hit, there were no other reasons to back his strange campaign.
Looking ahead, where does Carson's support go once he's left the stage? In the fall, when Carson faltered, the bulk of his evangelical support went to Cruz, but the two had a falling out after chicanery on caucus day in Iowa. For Carson supporters who appreciate an amateur candidate with no experience, Trump is a likely beneficiary. For Carson backers looking for a candidate with a measured tone, perhaps John Kasich will pick up some support.
Now that every delegate seems to matter, don't be surprised if each of the final four have very kind words about Carson in tomorrow night's debate.
As for the retired doctor's future, my fear is that Carson will follow in the footsteps of Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Herman Cain, each of whom turned their mailing lists into lucrative fundraising operations of dubious quality.