Moments before the Iowa Caucuses last night, the Cruz campaign sent out a text message suggesting that Dr. Carson was dropping out of the race after the Iowa Caucuses. The text included video of CNN reporting the rumor. Further, the text said “CNN is reporting that Dr. Carson will stop campaigning after Iowa. Make sure to tell all of your peers at the caucus that are supporting Carson that they should coalesce around the true conservative that will be in the race for the long haul: Ted Cruz!”
Steve King, one of Sen. Cruz’s chief surrogates, tweeted “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.” The rumor took off so fast that Dr. Carson’s wife, appearing at a caucus in Ankeny, IA, had to stop the rumor.
Dr. Carson’s Iowa State Director, Ryan Rhodes, told MSNBC “It was happening all over. One of the precincts Candy [Carson, the candidate’s wife] walked into, she had to correct the record. She actually walked in, in Ankeny, and gave a speech about no, he’s still in the race and that’s a lie.”
There’s a narrative developing that should frighten the Cruz campaign. That narrative is that Sen. Cruz fights dirty. The issue came up over the weekend when the Cruz campaign insisted that Sen. Rubio supported Cap and Trade. They did this after they intentionally clipped part of a video off to make it appear as though he supported it. They cut it off right before then-Speaker Rubio emphatically announced that he was opposing then-Gov. Crist’s Cap and Trade legislation.
If Sen. Cruz continues with this practice of playing dirty, the Rubio and Carson campaigns will start running ads highlighting that. It isn’t a stretch to think that some establishment mouthpieces start showing up on talk shows to highlight that. That will just incentivize voters to flock to Sen. Rubio.
The difference between Sen. Cruz and Sen. Rubio is that Sen. Rubio can get establishment votes. Sen. Cruz does well with evangelical voters but Sen. Rubio competed pretty well for those voters in Iowa. There’s no reason to think that he can’t win evangelical votes in Bible Belt states.
Sen. Cruz wears it as a badge of honor that he can’t get establishment votes. The rules of primaries start with the indisputable fact that the candidate with the most votes wins. Candidates that are openly hostile to a large demographic group are being foolish.
At the end of the day, Sen. Cruz left Iowa with momentum. It remains to be seen if his campaign tactics will hurt him in New Hampshire and South Carolina.