- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2016

The allegation that Ted Cruz used dirty tricks against rival Ben Carson in Iowa has turned his caucus win into a liability as he is forced to repeatedly apologize or defend himself.

His campaign insisted Monday that Mr. Cruz had already left the fuss over the alleged caucus night shenanigans in the rearview mirror.

“We’re in New Hampshire now and we will be in South Carolina,” said Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler. “Ted Cruz apologized in front of million of viewers and the evidence is that the results weren’t changed. Ben Carson was not going to win Iowa.”

But wherever he goes, the U.S. senator from Texas is dogged by questions about his campaign workers spreading a rumor during the caucuses that Mr. Carson planned to drop out of the race, and urging caucus-goers to therefore switch their votes.

He is asked about it by voters on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. His surrogates get grilled about it in South Carolina,

Republican campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom agreed that the drop-out rumor probably didn’t affect the outcome in Iowa. But he said that’s not what is hurting Mr. Cruz.


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“What it does is reinforce the impression of Ted Cruz as being devious or unlikable. I’m not saying it is a true characterization but it’s one that his opponents are tying to spread,” said Mr. Fehrnstrom, who served as a top aide to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.

“In Cruz’s defense, this type of gamesmanship goes on all the time at conventions, caucuses and straw polls,” he said. “It is rare however when it gets set down in writing.”

He said that’s why Mr. Cruz had to apologize.

Mr. Carson called the caucus night rumor a “dirty trick” and questioned the integrity of the Cruz campaign.

He demanded Mr. Cruz fire those responsible. Mr. Cruz refused, saying he took full responsibility for the actions of his staff and volunteers.

Republican presidential front-runner and billion businessman Donald Trump, who finished a close second in Iowa, has advanced the narrative by accusing Mr. Cruz of “fraud” and stealing the election.

Compounding the damage to Mr. Cruz’s reputation is the high esteem in which voters hold Mr. Carson, a devoutly religious man and world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon who has some of the best favorability ratings of all the GOP candidates.

In New Hampshire, where Mr. Cruz was never a top contender, voters have said they don’t like to see Mr. Carson treated that way and that it turns them off to Mr. Cruz.

Mr. Cruz attempted damage control during the GOP candidate’ debate Saturday in New Hampshire.

Ben is a good and honorable man and Ben and [his wife Candy Carson] have become friends. He has an amazing life story that has inspired millions, including me,” Mr. Cruz said, offering another apology. “When this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now. Ben, I’m sorry.”

Still, Mr. Cruz has insisted that his staff merely circulated a CNN report issued during the caucus that the retired neurosurgeon was taking the unusual step of returning to his Florida home after the caucuses rather than going directly to New Hampshire or South Carolina, the location next two nominating contests after Iowa where most candidates headed.

That’s the explanation he gave in the debate and the one he repeats when pressed at town hall meetings.

However, the CNN report never indicated Mr. Carson planned to drop out, and the CNN reporter who broke the story on Twitter immediately sent out another tweet clarifying that Mr. Carson intended to keep running regardless of the Iowa results.

Senator Cruz’s claims about CNN are false. At no point did the network indicate Dr. Carson would suspend his campaign,” the cable news network said in a statement. “Our correspondent reported the information provided to him by the Carson campaign. Dr. Carson’s staff informed CNN that he would return home to take a ‘deep breath’ before resuming his activities on the trail. That information was reported accurately by CNN across TV and digital.”

A the debate, Mr. Carson also contradicted Mr. Cruz’s version of events.

“The timeline indicates that initial tweet from CNN was followed by another one within one minute that clarified that I was not dropping out. So, what happened to that one, it is unclear,” he said. “But the bottom line is, we can see what happened, everybody can see what happened and you can make your own judgment.”

Carson campaign officials said that they were not making what happened in Iowa a campaign issue, although they said Mr. Carson invited voters to make integrity a campaign issue.

“He does want the American public to make sure they are examining the candidate and the campaign and the rhetoric. If you are saying you are a campaign that is run with integrity, then let that be the case,” said Carson campaign spokeswoman Deana Bass.

Dr. Carson wants people to examine his campaign in that way as well,” she added.

Mr. Carson has vowed to stay in the race all the way to the party’s July nominating convention in Cleveland, though he suffers slipping poll numbers and fundraising woes that forced him to lay off half his campaign staff after the Iowa caucuses.

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