Conservative favorite Ben Carson, who last week suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, plans to endorse Donald Trump on Friday morning, according to two people familiar with his thinking.
The endorsement, perhaps the most high-profile nod for Trump since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed him, was finalized Thursday morning when Carson met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the luxury club owned by the Republican front-runner, the people said. The sources requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Friday’s announcement will also take place at the club in Palm Beach, Florida, where the onetime rivals will appear alongside one another at a news conference.
During a Republican presidential debate aired on CNN on Thursday night, Trump confirmed that Carson will endorse him Friday. He said they discussed Carson’s ideas on education and other topics earlier in the day.
“We spoke for over an hour on education. And he has such a great handle on it,” Trump said. “I’m going to have Ben very involved with education, something that’s an expertise of his.”
Armstrong Williams, Carson’s business manager, confirmed that the pair met Thursday but declined to comment further. A Trump campaign spokesperson declined to comment about the meeting or a possible endorsement.
The support of Carson, a famed retired neurosurgeon and author, will likely give Trump a boost with GOP base voters and evangelicals, who embraced Carson’s campaign in its early days and fueled his brief rise to the top of Republican primary polls.
Carson’s decision may surprise some of his backers since Trump made blistering critiques over the past year of stories from Carson’s past. But according to people close to him, Carson has gradually come to see Trump as the GOP’s best chance of winning a general election and turning out droves of disengaged voters.
Appearing Thursday on Fox News Radio, Carson hinted that he is “certainly leaning” toward a candidate and spoke highly of Trump.
“There’s two Donald Trumps. There’s the Donald Trump that you see on [the media] and who gets out in front of big audiences, and there’s the Donald Trump behind the scenes,” he said. “They’re not the same person. One’s very much an entertainer, and one is actually a thinking individual.”
Carson halted his campaign this month, telling supporters he saw “no path forward” for his bid. He then officially dropped out of the race in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Ever since, Carson has been based at his winter home in West Palm Beach, not far from Mar-a-Lago, which made Thursday’s quiet get-together convenient for the former candidate.