On Monday night, I was somewhat taken aback by the magnanimity, brevity, graciousness, and (dare I say it?) humility of Donald Trump's concession speech. He praised the people of Iowa, who'd just dealt him a setback, and congratulated Ted Cruz on his hard-earned victory. It was a shift in tone; perhaps a sign of newfound political sobriety and maturity heading into New Hampshire. Or not. The billionaire celebrity has reverted to form, lobbing hysterical bombs on Twitter, accusing Cruz of having "stolen" the Iowa caucuses and demanding a re-do. When Donald Trump's ego gets bruised, he lashes out. He did so against Megyn Kelly -- taking his juvenile grudge so far as to skip a nationally-televised debate, which he admits may have hurt his campaign. He did so by smearing Ben Carson, who was leading him in Iowa and threatening him nationally at the time. And he's done so against Ted Cruz on multiple occasions, in various iterations. And now we have this unhinged tantrum:
Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016
Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2016
He also lashed out over the Cruz campaign's over-the-top, creepy "voter violation" notices they mailed out (which were totally legal and arguably effective), as well as Cruz's legitimate knocks on Trumpcare -- but the "substance" of Trump's "argument" here revolves around an eleventh-hour rumor regarding Ben Carson. The Cruz team (and others, including Rubio allies) seized on a CNN report in the hours immediately prior to the caucuses commencing that Carson was heading home to Florida after Iowa, rather than heading straight to New Hampshire. Team Cruz blasted out this information far and wide, suggesting that Carson might have been laying the groundwork to drop out, or that he was tired of the whole process. The Carson camp quickly clarified that the former neurosurgeon was by no means dropping out, but merely flying home to,...um, do some laundry, or something. Baffling unto itself. Regardless, Cruz's campaign didn't rescind its amplification of the Carson rumor, probably because they were hoping to win over as many Carson voters as possible at the last minute.
Carson labeled this a "dirty trick" (that's a stretch -- I'd call it a relatively cynical exploitation of an unforced error) for which Cruz himself ended up personally apologizing. The apology was accepted, but Carson still seems steamed about how everything went down. Trump's now jumping on that bandwagon, pivoting away from his more reasonable excuses for why he lost (bad organization from the genius CEO), to openly alleging fraud. Read Allahpundit's post for a detailed breakdown of why Trump's theory of the nonexistent crime makes no sense whatsoever. In truth, I think AP's thorough analysis overthinks Trump's angle in all of this. The reality is that this outlandish mogul does not take losing well. Ever. He behaved himself briefly on caucus night, then appears to have stewed bitterly over his defeat for a day or two. The resentment and bad press ate away at him until he couldn't help but to latch on to a ludicrous conspiracy -- upon which his campaign is now baselessly expanding:
Trump spox on CNN *expanding* the "CRUZ CHEATED!" theory, now questioning whether caucus-goers were even registered voters.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 3, 2016
They're not offering a shred of evidence of actual voter fraud, mind you, simply pointing out that it's possible -- while neglecting to mention that under this theory, perhaps the likeliest group of ineligible voters would have been low-propensity Trump supporters. All of this smacks of sad, desperate, grade school-style sore-loserism, a very risky move for a guy whose whole image is that of an alpha male winner. Phil Klein wonders if this is finally the implosion everyone has been waiting for, but never comes to pass. We'll see how this plays among New Hampshire's flinty voters over the next few days. It's almost certainly premature to start writing Trump's political obituary, as he's still the strong favorite to win the Granite State, but this strikes me as correct:
Trump's cheating talk is a mistake. When you are perceived as a winner, you get away with all sorts of dumb things you can't after you lose— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) February 3, 2016
The mud is a-flyin':
Parting thought: One leading GOP contender has formally accused another of cheating to "steal" the Iowa election. ABC News basically has to lead with this at Saturday's debate, right? Also, here's a little flashback context to mull over:
Trump: Cruz spread an untrue rumor about Carson! Fraud!— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 3, 2016
Trump, a few weeks ago: Carson is sort of like a pedophile, you know.
UPDATE - Doubling down: