Ben Carson on Friday announced he is “leaving the campaign trail” after a string of disappointing finishes in the GOP presidential primary contests and urged his former Republican rivals for more civility.
“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference taking place outside Washington, D.C.
The announcement was expected after Carson released a statement saying he does “not see a political path forward” after this week’s Super Tuesday contests. He did not participate in Thursday’s GOP debate in Michigan.
Carson received a standing ovation after making the announcement, and promised he would still be “heavily involved in trying to save the nation.” Ahead of Carson’s speech Friday, he was announced as the chair of My Faith Votes, a group aimed at motivating Christians to get to the ballot box.
The former pediatric neurosurgeon surged in the polls last fall, even leading the once crowded GOP field in Iowa. But his quiet demeanor and questions about his foreign policy expertise made him an easy target both for his Republican rivals and late-night comics.
“I have always kind of thought that people at some point would just say, you know, enough of this foolishness, we’re going to look at these policies and we’re going to see what works,” Carson said in a question-and-answer session after his speech. “We haven’t gotten there quite yet.”
Carson said Thursday’s debate, which at times turned into a shouting match filled with personal insults, was “kinda funny but it’s very sad that we’ve reached that point.”
“We cannot afford to give the Democrats this kind of ammunition,” he said. “We have already supplied them with an enormous amount of material. Could we just stop?”
Carson finished fourth in Iowa and earned just eight delegates in the first 15 GOP nominating contests.
“I did the math, I looked at the delate counts, I looked at the states, I looked at the requirements and I realized it simply wasn’t going to happen,” Carson said. “And if that’s the case, I didn’t want to interfere with the process.”