After briefly teasing establishment Republicans with the prospect of bringing down their top nightmare, Donald Trump, Ben Carson hasn’t quite been that candidate.
He struggled to defend elements of his life-story first, then his numbers slid and last week he saw the exit of top campaign staff in a shake-up that is usually not seen as a good sign.
Commentators have said Carson looks in trouble, that his campaign could be - imploding, which, has been by far the most frequently used word to describe his situation.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who won world celebrity leading the separation of conjoined twins in 1987, became a surprise Number 2 behind Trump in the Republican race.
And held on to it for weeks, positioning himself as an outsider, anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage and endeared himself to the party religious right saying he doesn’t believe in “denominations”.
Ted Cruz, a first-time senator from Texas, knocked him off the perch in recent weeks, critically, as the race enters the final stretch before the Iowa Caucus on February 1.
Carson has now slipped to Number 4 in the aggregate of national polls by Real Clear Politics, behind Trump, Cruz and Marco Rubio, the other first-time senator in the race.
That’s a long way to fall after going toe-to-toe with Trump for weeks, as the soft-spoken, thoughtful, sober alternative to the bombastic, divisive and spiteful front-runner.
There was some talk of the two of them teaming up eventually on one ticket.
“Well I like him, he likes me. I mean, stranger things have happened,” Trump said when asked by CNN.
It didn’t take long for things to go south, though. Threatened by Carson’s rise, Trump went after him, attacking his faith and claims from his life story that have not held up to scrutiny.
Raised by a single-mother in Detroit, Carson, an African American, has a compelling life-story - from a poor family to a celebrated doctor from the prestigious Johns Hopkins.
As a teen, he has said in his autobiography - Gifted Hand, which was later turned into movie with Cuba Gooding Jr playing him - he had anger issues, and once tried to hit his mother.
At another time, he tried to stab a friend, he has said. This claim has been found questionable and no one has yet come forward to corroborate it, and no such friend has been found yet.
Some others of Carson’s claims were also found to have been either stretched or invented, dealing damaging his credibility and his sincerity, that were said to be his strongest traits.
Carson also appeared weak on national security issues - famously pronouncing Hamas, the Palestinian militant outfit, “hummus”, a mid-eastern chickpea dip.
And now, campaign staff troubles seem to be exacerbating his chances for the White House.