The race to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate is already one of the strangest soap-opera-worthy down-ballot races in the nation, and it might get even more bizarre. GOP operatives are apparently pressuring Ben Carson to make an official exit from the presidential primary to run for the U.S. Senate in Florida instead.
Carson sent an email to supporters yesterday that he sees no "political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results” and will sit out tonight's GOP debate. He has not, however, officially exited the race, but he's expected to make a major announcement tomorrow at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.
Could that announcement involve jumping into the Senate race? Maybe. The retired neurosurgeon lives in Palm Beach after all.
It was Carson himself who first signaled there was interest in his dropping out to run for Senate instead at a rally in Irving, Texas, last week.
“I’ve got unanswered calls on my phone right now: ‘Oh, if you did this or did this, and did this, or if you drop out and support this guy, we’ll give you all this money and we’ll make sure you’re a senator here,’” Carson said. “What a bunch of crap. This is about saving our nation. This is not about horse-trading and making deals.”
CNN reported yesterday that indeed unnamed "GOP operatives" confirmed off the record there was a plan to get Carson into the Florida race.
Carson campaign chairman Bob Dees also told the Washington Examiner that such a push existed.
"That's been very tangible. It's been several... two groups of billionaire-types of folks that have pressured him," Dees told the paper. "People that drive super-PAC activity and other endeavors and, in fact, there was even discussion of a, well, we can help with the Florida [U.S.] Senate seat if he'll just agree to do what we'd like you to do or support our guy, drop out, etc."
The only question is whether Carson is interested.
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The Republican Senate primary is already a crowded field. It includes Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, and Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera. Businessmen Todd Willcox and Carlos Beruff are also in the race. However, none has major name recognition, and voters remain largely undecided in the race. Jolly is currently the nominal frontrunner.
Despite having retired in Florida, Carson doesn't have any other major connections to the state. At certain points in the Republican primary, he did sit in second place in polling in Florida but wasn't as popular as he was in other states, and he was always a distant second place to Trump.
If Carson were to enter and win on the Republican side, he'd face off against the winner of the Democratic matchup of Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson — which itself is already shaping up to be a deeply strange competition.