NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Following a lackluster campaign, Ben Carson announced Friday he was ending his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, terminating Maryland’s last tie to the 2016 race.
In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Carson tried to casually slip in the official conclusion to his bid for the White House.
“Now that I am leaving the campaign trail,” he started, only to be interrupted by applause and a standing ovation. Once the crowd settled down, he jokingly said, “I know, there’s a lot of people who love me, they just want to vote for me.”
With the conclusion of Carson’s bid, the field of potential GOP candidates narrows to four: businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Carly Fiorina, a former corporate executive who received her master’s degree in business from the University of Maryland, dropped out of the GOP race on Feb. 10. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley ended his bid for the Democratic nomination on Feb. 2.
Despite a strong showing in poll numbers in early November – an ABC News poll reported 71 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Americans favored Carson – Carson’s numbers quickly fell after debate and media confrontations over his lack of experience and policy knowledge.
“Somehow the narrative has been projected that if you’re soft-spoken and mild-mannered, there is no way you can deal with terrorism, with national security, that you’re not a strong person,” Carson told the Washington Post shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
As the twelfth GOP candidate to drop from the race since September, Carson announced in a statement released Wednesday that he would not attend one of the final GOP debates in Detroit on Thursday, saying he didn’t see a way to the nomination, but hadn’t yet suspended it.
“I do not see a political path forward in light of…primary results,” Carson said in a statement. “Even though I will not be in my hometown of Detroit on Thursday, I remain deeply committed to my home nation, America.”
The decision came in light of his poor showing on Super Tuesday, which followed earlier dismal showings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Carson has been far behind in polls, and so far had won only a total of eight delegates in the primaries, according to the New York Times, placing him at the bottom among the remaining Republican candidates.
Last month, Carson pledged to stay in the presidential race. In a statement explaining his decision released just a few days before ending his campaign, he said, “It seems like the only thing that’s guaranteed in this year’s election is the litany of punditry after every primary. This undiscussed industry has helped make politics more blood sport than democratic exercise.”
Since officially announcing his candidacy on May 4 last year, Carson, a greatly-celebrated retired neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, had the cards stacked against him. The Atlantic reported that no party nominated a candidate without elected experience since Dwight D. Eisenhower, the great military commander in World War II, in 1952.
Carson doesn’t plan to leave the limelight any time soon. In an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News on Thursday, he said he would support whichever candidate the public backed, not officially endorsing any of the four potential nominees left, and that he would keep writing and speaking publicly.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.