And different is not always better, folks.
Carson entered the race as a kind of cultural giant -- an icon about whom, nonetheless, many details were not known. Even his reputation for breaking new medical ground was seen through the gauzy filter of only Carson's surgical success stories and the insights of former colleagues. The reality of even the surgery that made him famous and the Horatio Alger-like life story before it were indeed more complex than they first seemed. And as Carson, the novice politician, actually made his way into the political thicket, his cerebral, almost anesthetized, speaking pattern, his patrician hand placement and his penchant for hyperbolic metaphors and similes created challenges and sometimes small crises for his campaign.
On Super Tuesday, Carson registered a particularly dismal performance. His meteoric political rise and very short time at the top of the GOP presidential race seemed to have ended in a crash and burn. Still, the ever-different Carson announced Wednesday that he sees no path forward for his campaign and won't take part in Thursday night's debate, but is not officially calling it quits.
With that in mind, The Fix has compiled this timeline of Carson's nine-month campaign.
Carson announced his plans to announce a presidential run in an interview on a local Florida television station, violating one of the first unwritten political consultant's rules for a presidential run: Don't share your announcement day with anyone or anything else, if you can help it. Instead, Carson confirmed his plans to announce a White House run, leaving national reporters eager to break or at least shape presidential announcement news with little to add but this context: Carson, a retired and respected neurosurgeon, has never before held a public office.
However, after Carson in 2013 dressed down President Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast and described Obamacare as "worse than slavery" on national TV, that was all the evidence that some conservative voters needed. It seemed Carson's chief qualification was that he was a genuine black conservative willing to speak boldly and badly about Obama. For some conservatives, Carson was proof that there was, indeed, a black man somewhere who shared their ideas.
The already-crowded Republican field and the non-traditional candidate's wing suddenly had within it had a louder option. There was a candidate even less-restrained by fact or social niceties than Carson. His name, of course, was Donald Trump. Both men made frequent reference to a kind of a doomsday course for America unless certain actions were taken. Carson touted his faith and his sense of mission rather than ambition in running for president. He openly described himself as the candidate who "really didn't want to run." And when a gunman allegedly hoping to spark a race war entered a South Carolina historic black church and shot and killed nine people, Carson was initially the only Republican presidential candidate to describe the event as an act of violent racism, according to the Economist.
Carson used some of what he often complained was his unfairly limited time to speak during Republican primary debates to advocate for a tithing-based tax system -- one that would limit government revenues to no more than 10 percent of every person's income. Carson defended the plan by explaining that this is what God expects us to share with our churches and communities. God is "a pretty fair guy," so a similar tax system would have to be, he claimed. And Carson took to saying in interviews that abortion is the leading cause of black death in the United States. He also claimed that Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods.
Carson told both CNN and ABC News that he would not vote for a Muslim who wants to become president because Muslims can not both practice their faith and advance democracy. It was the first of many Muslim-centered and controversial debates in the GOP presidential race.
The New York Times had credited Carson's preternatural calm for helping him climb in polls of Iowa voters to place ahead of the formidable Donald Trump. Carson even took the national lead for a few days. Politico magazine dubbed Carson "The Superior Outsider." But his habit of odd historical references and comparisons soon began to create trouble. Carson told CNN viewers that, had more Jews been armed as the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the Holocaust could have been prevented, earning the rebuke of the Anti-Defamation League. That same month, Carson told Glenn Beck and his listeners that extreme liberal speech should be banned on college campuses.
Then came the bad news for the Carson campaign. The debate turned to foreign policy, the Middle East and refugees after terrorists launched a mass attack on Paris. Carson compared Syrian refugees to mad dogs but otherwise had little intelligible to say about overseas matters. Then, Trump raised questions, again and again, about the details of Carson's widely known but not closely examined backstory. Carson has said and written many times that, as a teen, he violently attacked a close friend and his own mother. It was, to say the least, always a bit odd as presidential resume points go. But a candidate who built his public story around a history of violence, anger and then a spiritual conversation has to defend every aspect of those claims when questioned. Then, there were all those stories about whether or not Carson had been invited to apply to West Point, offered a full scholarship and what have you. (Hint: The military academy's admissions process really does not work the way that Carson described in his books.) And, to make matters worse, a campaign adviser or foreign policy tutor told the New York Times that Carson could not retain the information the adviser tried to impart. Carson lost his solid hold on voters in Iowa.
In the weeks that followed, the bad news mounted. Senior campaign staff members quit or, according to Carson, were on the verge of being fired when they did so. The entire mess, according to people on both sides, had been mounting for some time. Carson, MSNBC noted, had taken to leaning heavily and often on medical terms and metaphors, his intellectual comfort zone, in Republican primary debates.
The novice candidate told Newsmax that he had already identified his own metrics for staying in or getting out of the race. Carson said he has to finish among the top-three contenders in three of the first four states where voting will happen. That was Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Carson decamped to Iowa where he put particular energy into trying to convince the state's socially conservative and evangelical Christian voters that he was their candidate. And Carson began to publicly distance himself from long-time friend and unofficial but influential adviser, Armstrong Williams. None of that worked.
When the Iowa caucuses were over Feb. 1, Carson missed his third-place goal. He took 9 percent of the vote, putting him in fourth place behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Trump, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). In fact, Rubio beat Carson by 14 points. That night, Carson confused much of political America when he said he was taking a break from the campaign trail and heading home to Florida for fresh clothes. More than a few people thought the Carson campaign had reached an end. Then, Carson came back and voiced surprise that anyone had expected anything different. News broke that the campaign was making drastic staff and spending cuts. And, in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first primary, things got worse. Carson took eighth place behind Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Cruz, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. Christie and Fiorina have since dropped out.
We honestly thought we were done when we wrote the line above a few weeks back. Then, there was that Republican debate from Houston on Feb. 25. That's where, in response to a question about how he would evaluate potential Supreme Court nominees, Carson offered some specific examples of the questions he would ask, the types of inquires he would make that all live in the realm of the customary. Then, he offered this metaphor: "The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at." Fruit Salad. It is worthy of it's own entry here, really. Someday, books will be written that include this moment. Peter Morgan, the mind behind "Frost Nixon," may craft a 90-minute screenplay from the moment leading up and following this moment. If you were watching you can say you were "there" when the comment that inspired a thousand tweets tumbled out. Fruit Salad. Man. The only thing Carson said that night that may have been more, um, memorable was, "Will somebody please insult me?" He was trying to get some speaking time.
Oh, and there was also this:
We honestly don't even know what to say about that.
This leaves us with Super Tuesday, the day on which the largest single-day basket of delegates was up for grabs in early March. Carson limped into Super Tuesday with far lower-than-expected election results and a paltry delegate count, so he was in the unenviable position of needing to do really, really well but terribly unlikely to do so. And, he did not. Carson walked away having won zero states, an estimated eight delegates and with his once storybook-quality Horatio Alger tale mildly tarnished by the ordinary vetting and fact-checking that takes place over the course of a presidential campaign -- or actually, any campaign.
Carson, a political novice, may not have been fully prepared for that and complained often that he was vetted in a way that other candidates -- namely President Obama -- were not. Carson also never seemed to fully comprehend that his fondness for the hyperbolic metaphor may have attracted additional attention. The same was true of his somnambulant debate-stage presence and his tendency to rattle off what often sounded like the first five paragraphs of the "Introduction to Middle East Politics" memo someone drafted for him in response to any and every question about the Islamic State or national security. You see, in the end, calling Obamacare "worse than slavery" may have gotten him a political commentator's start, but it turns out that it didn't deliver the presidency.