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Ben Carson drops out of GOP race, says Republicans risk giving up White House

"There's a lot of people who love me. They just won't vote for me," Carson said in announcing his departure from the race Friday.
By Doug G. Ware   |   Updated March 4, 2016 at 7:33 PM
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 4 (UPI) -- The Republican field for president shed another candidate Friday after Ben Carson suggested to a crowd of supporters in Maryland that he is formally ending his campaign.

Carson, who has recently been polling behind front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, told the Conservative Political Action Conference that he will next focus his efforts on working with the Christian group My Faith Votes to get out the Christian vote in November.

"Even though I might be leaving the campaign trail, you know there's a lot of people who love me. They just won't vote for me," Carson said. "But it's OK. It's not a problem. I will still continue to be heavily involved in trying to save our nation."

Ed Brookover, Carson's campaign manager, told The Hill in a statement that Carson is "leaving the campaign trail" and that "[we] do not plan to return."

A retired neurosurgeon, Carson rode a wild GOP roller coaster after announcing his candidacy last May.

During the first Republican debates last year, he was a relative unknown in the GOP field, polling below 6 percent at the time of the first debate in August -- good for fifth place in the Republican race.

Carson jumped into second place, though, by the end of August and trailed only Trump. In early November, Carson briefly became the Republican front-runner after overtaking Trump. At one point, polling data said Carson represented the Republicans' best chance to beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

By early December, however, he had fallen back into fourth place and has been steadily losing ground since. Most recent polling has kept Carson in fourth place with between 8 and 10 percent. He had acquired a total of eight delegates during his bid, which will now be reallocated to other candidates.

In a taped interview before his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, Carson told WABC radio that he wished he would have had more control over his campaign.

"I regret not choosing my own people early on," he said. "Letting other people do that and trusting them, that was clearly a mistake."

Wednesday, Carson indicated to supporters that he was winding his campaign down.

"I did the math. I looked at the delegate counts ... and I realized it simply wasn't going to happen," he said Friday. "And if that's the case, then I simply didn't want to interfere with the process."

Carson invited controversy, at times, during his bid. In October he stated that he would not support a Muslim president and later drew criticism for remarks he made about the Umpqua College shooting in Oregon.

Carson did not endorse any GOP candidate upon withdrawing from the race, but did warn that the remaining Republican contenders could harm the party's chance of retaking the White House if they're not careful.

"We cannot afford to give the Democrats all of this ammunition," he said, referring to in-fighting among the GOP candidates. "I wish that people would remember what happened last time and how the Republicans were destroying each other."

"The people who are running today, boy I could tell you, I could come up with some stuff," he added. "But I left that stuff in high school. The things that affect us now are so incredibly important."

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