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Ben Carson ends presidential bid, to lead Christian voter group

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Ben Carson

WASHINGTON — Ben Carson on Friday ended his presidential bid, announcing he is “leaving the campaign trail.”

“Even though I might be leaving the campaign trail, you know there’s a lot of people who love me. They just won’t vote for me, but it’s OK. It’s not a problem. I will still continue to be heavily involved in trying to save our nation,” Carson told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, which gave him a standing ovation when he made the announcement.

On Wednesday, the retired neurosurgeon announced that he didn’t see “a political path forward” for his campaign.

Carson also announced his next move after effectively ending his presidential campaign: chairing a group focused on getting out the Christian vote in November.

My Faith Votes announced Carson as its new national chairman Friday, putting out a statement ahead of Carson’s address to the conservative CPAC gathering Friday afternoon. Carson is expected to speak about his new venture there.

“Nothing is more important to me than my personal faith, and it is my faith that motivated me to be involved in the political process to begin with,” Carson said in a statement. “I believe Christians in this country can easily determine the next president of the United States and all other national and local leaders, should they simply show up at the polls.”

The tax-exempt nonprofit educational group says it will undertake a national media campaign that will gather steam into the November presidential election.

“In the last four presidential elections, an average of less than five million votes separated the major candidates.” My Faith Votes President Sealy Yates, said in a statement. “Yet, more than 25 million Christians didn’t bother to even show up at the polls in 2012.”

Carson repeated the message in a video on the group’s website, saying it’s his goal to encourage all Christians in “exercising our civic duty and voting.”

The group said Carson agreed to take on the position the same day he announced he could not see a “path forward” for his presidential campaign, Wednesday, though he has yet to say he is formally suspending his campaign. He did not participate in the GOP debate on Thursday.

Carson has said he’ll support the eventual Republican nominee but has demurred on whether he’ll endorse any of the candidates. Asked if the new job would preclude him from doing so, Carson confidante and business manager Armstrong Williams said he was “never” going to endorse a candidate.

He has promised to give more information at CPAC, which his spokesman reiterated in response to a query about what the new position means for the campaign.

Speculation had abounded about Carson’s next move. CNN’s Dana Bash reported that GOP operatives planned to reach out to Carson to encourage him to run for the Florida Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio instead of president.

The super PAC supporting Carson had also sent out fundraising pleas off Carson as a vice presidential pick.

Throughout the campaign, Carson has said he’d be happy in retirement but has felt called to run for president by his supporters and God.