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Breaking: Ben Carson to End His Presidential Campaign in Everything But Name

The retired neurosurgeon was leading the Republican field as late as November, before a series of controversies and poor debate performances caused his popularity to plummet.
Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson will tell supporters this afternoon that he sees no "path forward" for his presidential campaign, according to the Washington Post.

Carson will not technically end his campaign, Republicans close to him told the Post, but in acknowledging that he cannot win the nomination, the effect will essentially be the same. Carson will skip tomorrow night's Republican debate in his hometown of Detroit after failing to make headway with voters in the 15 Republican contests in the 2016 primary race so far.

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Carson, 64, who formerly led the field of prospective GOP nominees in the polls as late as November, saw a steady drop in his approval ratings that was precipitated by a controversy late last year over several disputed details of his past. Carson placed a disappointing fourth in the Iowa caucuses behind Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio. He blamed his loss in the first contest of the 2016 campaign largely on Cruz, whose campaign circulated false reports on the day of the caucuses that Carson was dropping out of the race.

Related: Ben Carson Is Still Running for President, Although It's Getting Harder to Tell Why

The typically soft-spoken Carson grew angry after that, frequently calling out the Texas senator for playing "dirty tricks" on his campaign. The loss in Iowa, where Carson had enjoyed considerable support among evangelicals, stung him, and his campaign never really recovered. Shortly after the Iowa contest, Carson announced he would be slashing his staff by more than 50 positions just a few days before the New Hampshire primary, where he finished in eighth place.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, both of whom outperformed Carson in New Hampshire, dropped out that night. But Carson clung on and has continued to say that he would stay in the race. Carson told VICE News in South Carolina that he was seeing a "tremendous response" on the ground that just wasn't making itself known in the media narrative of the race.

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"People are telling me, 'Don't believe the polls, it's going to be very different on election day.' So we'll wait and see," he said.

But Carson finished dead last in South Carolina after placing fourth in Nevada's GOP caucuses, and he hasn't performed much better since. On Super Tuesday, Carson failed to finish in the top three in any of the 11 states that voted. His campaign is now running low on cash; he had just over $4 million left in his campaign account at the end of February. Yet in a speech delivered toward the end of last night's electoral frenzy, which wasn't even carried on cable news, Carson affirmed that he would still not end his campaign.

Related: Ben Carson Thinks Hip-Hop Is Ruining Black Communities, But He'll Use It to Get Votes

Last November, details of Carson's background were called into question after former classmates and neighbors expressed their surprise to CNN about his claims of youthful violence in his autobiography, which sought to catalogue his transformation from an angry young man into a responsible member of society. The questions surrounding his past incited a media firestorm that, coupled with his soft-spoken nature, threatened his White House ambitions and undermined his surge in voter support.

Carson was forced to defend key claims about his history, particularly an anecdote in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, in which the 14-year-old Carson attempted to stab a friend named "Bob" with a blade that fortunately snapped after it hit his target's belt buckle. Several friends, classmates, and neighbors from Carson's past said they no memory of such violent outbursts. One acquaintance told reporters that he was "shocked" when he read Carson's account of his childhood in his autobiography, while others remembered him as a quiet and obedient kid who refused to break his mother's rule against crossing the street.

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Related: Is Ben Carson Just Making Stuff Up?

Carson refuted the CNN report, but other disputed details of his past surfaced, including his dubious claim of having received a scholarship to the West Point military academy. Combined with a series of poor debate performances, the candidate's position in the polls began to dip.

The soft-spoken candidate also became the subject of some ridicule online during a Republican debate in New Hampshire after missing his cue to enter the stage, creating an awkward congestion of candidates backstage that was televised.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields.

Sarah Mimms and Olivia Becker contributed to this story.