REUTERS – Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson signaled on Wednesday he was quitting the Republican presidential race, leaving three candidates facing Donald Trump as the party establishment struggled to find a way to halt the outspoken businessman.
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Carson, a conservative who briefly led opinion polls among Republicans earlier in the campaign, said he did not "see a political path forward" after performing poorly in this week's Super Tuesday contests. He said he would not participate in a Republican debate on Thursday.
As a conservative black Republican, Carson, 64, stood out in the mostly white Republican Party, and his fast start in polls and fundraising last year briefly made him look like a contender. But his campaign foundered amid staff infighting and questions about Carson's familiarity with foreign policy.
His departure is unlikely to have a major impact on the fight among Republicans to become the party's candidate in the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
Reuters/Ipsos polling last month showed Carson supporters would mostly likely be split between Trump and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz if he dropped out. Ohio Governor John Kasich is also still in the race.
Trump consolidated his lead in the Republican race with a string of victories on Tuesday that moved him closer to winning the nomination.
The 69-year-old New York real estate tycoon, proclaimed himself a "unifier" after he won seven states from Massachusetts to the conservative Deep South.
His wins compounded the problem for a party whose leaders are critical of many of Trump's positions and values and skeptical he can defeat the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump has showered insults on rivals and is facing strong party disapproval over his ideas to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country.