Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE is going ballistic over the results of the Iowa caucuses, accusing Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE of cheating and threatening to sue in a series of blistering attacks against the winner.
Over Twitter and in media appearances on Wednesday, the top two finishers at Monday’s caucuses clashed over allegations that the Cruz campaign spread false rumors shortly before the event that fellow presidential hopeful Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.
Cruz and Carson were angling for the same evangelical voters in the state; Cruz supporters told caucusgoers at precincts across the state that with Carson out, they should instead get behind the Texas senator.
Trump, who finished approximately 6,000 votes behind Cruz out of about 180,000 ballots cast, is now furiously making the case that the election was stolen from him.
In an interview on Boston Herald Radio, which broadcasts into neighboring New Hampshire, where primary voters will cast ballots on Feb. 9, the real estate mogul said he “probably will” file a legal complaint against Cruz.
He accused the Texas Republican of “voter fraud,” called his actions “unthinkable” and “one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen,” and claimed it’s why the polls, which showed Trump in the lead on Election Day, ended up being wrong.
“It’s total voter fraud when you think of it, and he picked up a lot of those votes, and that’s why the polls were so wrong, because of that,” Trump said.
Cruz has apologized to Carson, calling the episode a “mistake” and acknowledging that his operatives should have moved to clear up the misunderstanding once they found out the rumors were untrue.
But a furious Trump says that’s not enough.
“They apologized after the caucus was over,” he said. “How does that help?”
Cruz is blaming a CNN report that said Carson was taking a “break” from the campaign trail after the Iowa caucuses. Carson returned home for two nights after the caucuses for fresh clothes before returning to campaigning.
The Cruz campaign fired back at Trump with humor on Wednesday, an indication it’s not taking his threats or attacks too seriously just yet.
“Reality just hit the reality star — he lost Iowa and now nobody is talking about him, so he’s popping off on Twitter,” said spokesman Rick Tyler. “There are support groups for Twitter addiction, perhaps he should find his local chapter.”
Cruz also addressed the matter over Twitter, accusing the billionaire businessman of throwing a “Trumpertantrum” and saying he was just “angry with the people of Iowa” for not delivering him a victory.
“They actually looked at his record,” he said.
Still, by the end of the day on Wednesday, the controversy was snowballing on Cruz. Carson and his team are apoplectic and insist they do not intend to let matter fizzle.
The controversy struck a personal cord with Carson and his team.
Carson said his wife, Candy Carson, was at one of the precincts where the person speaking on Cruz’s behalf told voters that Carson was getting out of the race.
And Armstrong Williams, a close friend and adviser of Carson’s, invoked the memory of Braden Joplin, the young volunteer who died in a collision on an icy Iowa highway while working for the campaign.
“After all the candidates worked so hard, and Dr. Ben Carson had a staff member lose his life working towards this day, to have someone like Cruz and his people deceive and spread falsehoods is unconscionable,” Williams said.
The retired neurosurgeon has demanded that Cruz fire those responsible for spreading the rumor, but Cruz has said he won’t.
“I don’t make it a practice of disciplining people for passing on public news reports,” he responded, again blaming the CNN report.
Carson went on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Tuesday night to excoriate Cruz for fostering a “culture” that “would allow people to take advantage of a situation like this in a very dishonest way.”
Still, he didn’t get any help from anchor Bill O’Reilly, who is absolving the Cruz campaign and instead blaming rival CNN for “misreporting.”
CNN pushed back against the Cruz campaign’s efforts to blame the network for spreading the bad information.
“When someone tries to take down the media and misreports something it gets me a little fired up,” anchor Brooke Baldwin said Wednesday. “I’m going to call b.s. when I hear b.s. and that was b.s.”
The Cruz campaign insists that it merely took CNN’s words literally about Carson taking a “break” from the campaign trail.
Carson kept the attacks up on Wednesday, booking an appearance at The National Press Club to draw attention to the controversy. There, he quoted scripture at Cruz and argued that “how a person conducts his life or campaign is an indication of who he is.”
A fiery Williams said Carson intends to keep the issue in the spotlight by pounding Cruz throughout the week and into Saturday night’s GOP debate, the final one before the New Hampshire primary.
“We’ve been told all along that Cruz’s operatives play dirty and were capable of this stuff, but Dr. Carson never believed it, he felt like they had a respectable operation,” Williams said. “Now we see firsthand that having integrity just doesn’t matter to them. It’s about honor and character, either you have it or you don’t.”
Meanwhile, Trump has once again managed to suck all of the oxygen away from White House contender Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, who came in third in Iowa, 1 point behind Trump, and candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, who have staked their candidacies on New Hampshire and are starving for attention ahead of next week’s primary.
Those candidates’ struggles to attract energy on the trail were encapsulated by Bush at a town hall in New Hampshire on Wednesday, who had to instruct a silent audience to “please clap” after remarks about how he’d keep the country safe.
Craig Stevens, a New Hampshire GOP operative and veteran of several presidential campaigns, said Trump looks “petty” after having given a gracious concession speech on Monday night.
But Cruz, he said, could be the real loser, saying the controversy “muddies” his Iowa victory and makes it look like “he can’t win straight up.”
“First, it weakens his grip on the morality message,” Stevens said. “And second, it builds into the narrative that Mr. Trump and others are pushing that Sen. Cruz isn’t likeable enough to win the general election.”