Okay, I’ll clarify that by saying that Ted Cruz sort of apologized for something they might have sort of done.
According to CNN, the Ted Cruz campaign has issued an apology to the network after Ben Carson’s high-level staffers complained that the Cruz campaign disseminated a CNN report that Carson intended to return to Florida after Iowa, rather than head to New Hampshire. According to the Carson campaign, Cruz’s team spread the story deliberately, sowing discontent among Carson’s caucus supporters and, somehow, building support for Cruz in the interim.
Dr. Ben Carson and his campaign accused Sen. Ted Cruz’s team of foul play on Monday night, alleging that his supporters had convinced caucus-goers he was out of the race.
“I was reasonably happy today, until I, you know, discovered the dirty tricks going on — spreading rumors I had dropped out,” Carson said on Monday night. The campaign told MSNBC they’d had “confirmed reports” of Cruz supporters telling voters at caucus sites that Carson had dropped out of the race. MSNBC has not yet confirmed the authenticity of these reports…
The campaign is pointing to a tweet from Rep. Steve King, who endorsed Cruz, as evidence. The tweet was sent at 8:20pm EST, when Iowans were already at caucus sites.
Rep. Steve King has endorsed Cruz and has been an important surrogate in Iowa for the Cruz campaign, so naturally, the Carson campaign connected the rumor right back to Cruz’s operation. It a pretty natural inference, frankly, since the news broke during the caucuses, meaning that there was time enough for disgruntled Carson voters, who thought their candidate was quitting on them, to re-caucus for Cruz. Carson’s team tried to answer the CNN story as quickly as possible – noting that their candidate was going home from a very brief rest and relaxation while he did a couple of loads of laundry – but even with fifteen minutes lead time for the original tale, the Carson response would have been either buried or ignored.
After getting an “earful,” about the situation, as Mediaite put it, the Cruz campaign issued a statement which is half mea culpa, half “Ben Carson doesn’t know how campaign’s work.” According to Team Cruz, the campaign did, indeed, send a “war room” update to its grassroots leaders and surrogates when the Carson story broke, but it swears it did without intending to bust Carson’s operation wide open. They did not send a follow-up to their email lists once Carson had clarified his position. This isn’t an unusual tactic for campaign communications running a heat-of-battle operation, to send updates to their surrogates so that they can make effective, up-to-date arguments to media and detractors. Carson probably has a similar operation in play, or he should. But sometimes it works, and sometimes it gets you reamed out on Morning Joe.
Either way, Carson is heading to Florida, and then is due to make a couple appearances in New Hampshire, just to say he went. NH isn’t an Evangelical state, so Carson’s message isn’t likely to penetrate very far, when NH primary voters have tastier, more moderate morsels to consume. Carson will focus on South Carolina and Florida, where the field is more open, and, honestly, he did quite well in Iowa. Fourth place is respectable, and he broke 10%. He’s certainly far from out of the running. As for Cruz, well, his ground operation was so good, its unlikely his alleged foray into dirty tricks accomplished much, though it will allow Carson to differentiate himself from Cruz more openly.