Carson fades: Republicans grapple with Trump victories

WASHINGTON -- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson pulled out of the Republican fracas Wednesday after Super Tuesday contests in which Donald Trump emerged a winner but faced stiff resistance from prominent party members who do not see him as a leader...

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson appears during a commercial break in a campaign town hall hosted by CNN in Greenville, South Carolina in this February 17, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Rainier Ehrhardt/Files

WASHINGTON - Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson pulled out of the Republican fracas Wednesday after Super Tuesday contests in which Donald Trump emerged a winner but faced stiff resistance from prominent party members who do not see him as a leader.
Carson, a conservative who briefly led opinion polls in the Republican race, said he would not attend Thursday’s debate in Michigan and he did not “see a political path forward” after he was shut out in Tuesday’s primary results.
As a conservative black Republican, Carson 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 in recent months amid staff infighting and shake-ups, and questions about Carson’s familiarity with foreign policy and other issues.
Carson signaled his withdrawal after Trump consolidated his lead in the Republican race with a string of victories Tuesday. His departure would leave four candidates vying to be the Republican nominee in the Nov. 8 election to replace Democratic President Barack Obama - a field that was once crowded and is now clearly dominated by Trump.
Trump, a 69-year-old New York real estate tycoon, proclaimed himself a “unifier” Tuesday night after he won seven states from centrist Massachusetts to the conservative Deep South in the contests to pick a party nominee.
But his main rivals in the White House race were unbowed.
“If this was anybody else as a front-runner, there’d be people right now saying ‘Let’s all rally around the front-runner,’” said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who won his first state contest, Minnesota, Tuesday.
“That will never happen with Donald Trump,” Rubio, favorite of the Republican establishment, told Fox News Wednesday. “On the contrary.”
Trump’s Super Tuesday wins compounded the problem for a party whose leaders are both critical of many of Trump’s positions and values and skeptical he can defeat the likely Democratic nominee in November, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump has showered insults on rivals and critics 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.
While they have yet to coalesce around a single strategy, anti-Trump Republicans have begun taking action. The conservative group Club for Growth claimed credit for slowing Trump in some primary states by running attack ads. It said it would air a new advertisement Thursday in Florida as part of a $1.5 million ad buy.
The party’s 2012 nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has weighed in against Trump, speculating about a “bombshell” in the billionaire’s tax returns. Romney scheduled a speech for Thursday about the state of the race, according to sources familiar with Romney’s plans.
Romney feels a need to speak out as the titular head of the party since he was the 2012 nominee and will not make an endorsement, one source told Reuters. “I think he’s going to focus on where we are and what we have to do to win in November,” one source said.
Some party donors - including hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise chief executive - organized a phone call Tuesday to get funding for an anti-Trump effort, the New York Times reported.
But one of Trump’s former rivals in the 2016 race, Mike Huckabee, admonished Republicans for not respecting the will of the voters.
“The establishment Republicans are all bed-wetting over this and they don’t seem to understand that we have an election,” the former Arkansas governor said on Fox News. “Let’s remember that we have an election process not a selection process.”
Trump responded to the furor against him, saying in a tweet on Wednesday, “The special interests and people who control our politicians (puppets) are spending $25 million on misleading and fraudulent T.V. ads on me.”

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