The question everyone is asking: Why? Why is Ben Carson, the onetime Republican front-runner who is now polling mostly in the single digits, still in the race for the Republican presidential nomination?
The campaign cannot say definitively if Carson will continue the race after Super Tuesday, noting that he assesses the race and makes a decision after every state contest.
Carson has virtually disappeared from television and radio airwaves for the past month, his campaign spending no money on TV or radio after Iowa or in Super Tuesday states, with the exception of a small radio ad buy of $200,000 in South Carolina. They have spent more than $500,000 on digital advertising this month, with a third of that allocated to Super Tuesday.
Recent voting in early states and polling for future contests suggests Carson has no viable path to the nomination, but his candidacy has the side effects of siphoning away potential Ted Cruz voters and enables opposing campaigns to paint Cruz as dishonest after his Iowa victory, where Cruz's campaign falsely spread information that Carson was dropping out of the race on caucus day. It's a narrative that has framed Sen. Cruz’s candidacy the past month and a narrative that Cruz has struggled to squash ever since.
But the campaign insists Carson is not staying in the race to spoil Cruz's chances -- or, as has also been speculated, to help Donald Trump’s candidacy.
It’s true that Carson’s campaign has a close relationship with Trump’s campaign. Carson’s former campaign manager, Barry Bennett, now works as an adviser to Trump and the two campaigns have coordinated their efforts on multiple occasions -- from protesting debate formats, to working together to attack Cruz.
“Why get out and help another candidate?” Senior Communications Strategist Jason Osborne told ABC News. “Maybe our votes help Trump because at least he’s anti-establishment. I can’t say that for sure. But I don’t think the people that are staying with us will go to Cruz.”
Osborne calls the pressure for Carson to drop out of the race “extremely frustrating,” telling ABC News that the Rubio campaign has even asked why Carson is staying in the race.
“If anything getting out of the race helps Rubio,” Osborne said. “The Rubio folks haven’t been particularly nice.”
The campaign admits staying in the race is not for the votes, but rather to influence the political process, insisting that if Carson ends his White House bid, there would no longer be a conversation about divisiveness or “We the People” -- three simple words that have framed Carson’s campaign for the White House.
“Carson is not wasting votes. Do you think if they took our votes and put them on top of Cruz, Cruz would beat Trump? No,” Osborne said. “He’s going to have an influence on the process way more than I think votes are involved.”
In an op-ed published today on Fox News, Carson vowed to stay in the race as long as the campaign has the revenue and support.
“I am pretty certain that if the money had dried up [Carson] would have taken a second look at it,” Osborne said reiterating that Carson feels beholden to those contributing money to him. “That’s what is weighing on his mind.”
Despite a major fundraising dip in December and January, the campaign remains optimistic. A senior aide says the campaign is on track to raise at least $5.5 million this month, up from $3.8 million the month of January.