Ben Carson’s last-place finish in the South Carolina Republican primary (he earned 7.2 percent of the total votes cast) has given rise to speculation that he must make some difficult choices about whether to continue his campaign — especially after Jeb Bush, who slightly bested Mr. Carson at 7.8 percent, announced after Saturday’s vote that he was suspending his campaign.
However, Mr. Carson’s path to the nomination has always differed from that of an establishment candidate like Mr. Bush, and Mr. Carson’s decision about whether and how to continue likely relies on different considerations.
One major factor in Mr. Carson’s continued relevance is that his strength among evangelicals in South Carolina was widely seen as having cost Sen. Ted Cruz a second-place finish in the state, as Sen. Marco Rubio edged out Mr. Cruz by tenths of a percentage point.
Clearly the Cruz camp sees Mr. Carson’s continued participation in the race as a major impediment to the Texan, and this will only intensify as the campaign moves into Nevada, where the evangelical vote constitutes a smaller, shallower pool.
Mr. Cruz failed in his attempt to get Mr. Carson to concede in a face-to-face meeting on Saturday in South Carolina before the voting began, and after bad blood between the two over reported “dirty tricks” by the Cruz campaign in Iowa had spilled over into the two subsequent contests.