A few hours after failing to place even third anywhere on Super Tuesday, Ben Carson announced that he wasn’t going to suspend his presidential campaign. He also said that he did “not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results” and was not planning to take part in a Republican debate on Thursday. Earlier in the day, one of his advisers said the same thing to Politico: “It’s not about a pathway to him. There is no pathway,” he said. “It’s about his constituency and his base telling him to stay in the race.”
And so Ben Carson’s candidacy remains in the same liminal space it’s been quarantined for the past few months — not a presidential campaign, but not quite not a presidential campaign, either. Not quite on the prime-time stage, although still getting attention for the way he failed to get there.
It was clear that Carson was starting to catch on about his campaign’s deficiencies after people started voting — but not voting for him. This was after the campaign’s top staffers left in a fury after a power struggle — an omen for where the already flailing campaign was heading. (One former staffer later told Politico, “I think he’s just living in an alternative universe.”)
A few weeks ago, the former neurosurgeon — whose legacy was once limited to being such a medical superstar that Cuba Gooding Jr. played him in a TV movie long before Carson was infected with a very infectious strain of a political virus at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast — talked to CNN about the fact that his campaign was raising lots and lots of money, and then turning around and spending most of that money to raise more money. When you rely on direct mail to fund your campaign, that’s what happens — and the people doing the fundraising for you tend to make a fortune off of it. “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances,” Carson said, laughing. “Or maybe they did. Maybe they were doing it on purpose.”
When asked about the possible route Carson could take to the White House, his campaign chair told the Washington Examiner, “Well, we clearly don’t know. We don’t have a well defined path to victory.” In early February, after the polls closed in New Hampshire, The Guardian stopped by Carson’s election night party. The headline on the story about the candidate’s dismal night — he came in eighth place — was “Ben Carson primary party is so quiet bartender knits blanket.”
In the last debate that Carson will take part in, his most memorable moment was when he said, “Can somebody attack me, please?”
At his Super Tuesday party in Baltimore (not far away from his home, where several paintings of Carson hang, including one of him and Jesus), he told someone who asked about how it felt to do so badly, “You always want to do better.”
Carson’s campaign, stuck in its Blue Period for now, may last only a few more days — he plans on discussing his future in greater depth during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday. Until Carson drops out, his campaign will still be able to do what it does best: raise money.
Back in October, at the tail end of Carson’s time of relevance in the race, his campaign paused momentarily to allow the candidate to sell copies of A More Perfect Union — a book that is not about how to expertly meld the best parts of a political campaign and a book tour for maximum financial success. “Some days we do book tour and some days we do campaign,” he told The Wall Street Journal. Back then, his now-former spokesman told ABC News, “He’s been on TV. I think Wednesday through Friday I got sick of looking at him on TV. So it’s pretty hard to suggest that he’s not out and about. Whether you make a distinction of it as a campaign thing or not. Most people at home just see Ben Carson out there talking about something that’s is [sic] or isn’t important to them.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter what you thought the Ben Carson campaign was. He just appreciates the fact that you listened for a while — and that you maybe keep listening to what he has to say in the future, even if he’s no longer running for president.
For now, however, Carson is still in the running, technically if not influentially. As he said about his campaign last night, “As long [as] we continue to receive their support, and the Lord keeps opening doors, I will remain in this presidential race.”
Carson has won eight delegates so far.