Politics is a full-contact sport, but it’s not OK to hit below the belt. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio spent last week blaming frontrunner Sen. Ted Cruz for a problem that originated from Team Carson’s own disorganization—even after media records and Iowa exit poll data cleared Cruz. Before you vote in your primary, you deserve the truth.
“You don’t have to be a politician to tell the truth,” Carson quipped in a recent debate. No, you don’t. So let’s start telling the truth. Unless you’re now a politician.
Carson finished 4th in the February 1 Iowa caucus. Cruz finished 1st, followed by Trump and Rubio respectively. Carson claims he was cheated out of votes because reports circulated—minutes before the caucuses began—that he was dropping out.
Carson’s mismanagement of his campaign communication led CNN to report on TV (video here) and on Twitter that he was dropping out of the race. The Rubio and Cruz campaigns re-shared this news.
Rubio denied doing so on Fox News: “You’ll never hear about me making up rumors that someone is dropping out in order to try to get votes.” But investigative journalist Jennifer Burke showed that Team Rubio did disseminate the CNN report, perhaps even more aggressively than Team Cruz. Rubio persisted in blaming Cruz for an activity that his own campaign partook in last week in New Hampshire: “Obviously, we’ve all seen the reports of the rumors that he spread about Ben Carson.”
Here’s an excerpt of the CNN TV report:
CNN’S DANA BASH: “Our Chris Moody is breaking this news, that Ben Carson is gonna go back to Florida, to his home…regardless of how he does… He’s going to go there for several days. And then afterwards, he’s not gonna go to New Hampshire. He’s not gonna go to South Carolina, he’s going to go to Washington D.C… [for] the National Prayer Breakfast … where he got himself on the political map. …Very unusual!”
CNN’S JAKE TAPPER: "Plus, he’s already announced that he’s going to be coming out and speaking at 9:15 local, 10:15 Eastern, no matter whether or not we know the results, because he wants to get home…"
BASH: "Look, if you want to be President of the United States, you don’t go home to Florida. …That’s the end of the story."
CNN didn’t do its homework in its haste to “break” a story. Instead, CNN led viewers to believe that a vote for Carson was a wasted vote. The bigger problem, however, is Carson’s response.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
Given that the CNN story broke minutes before official voting, it had little impact. We know this by analyzing the official 2016 Iowa caucus exit numbers. If you click the link and scroll to the section titled “When did you finally decide whom to support in today's caucus?” you’ll find these key facts:
Rubio: If anyone benefited from the last-minute report that Carson was dropping out, it was Rubio, who leads the top four Republican candidates with the number of voters who decided to vote for him “just today.”
Cruz: He has the highest number of voters who said they decided “a week” or “a month” priorto the Iowa caucus to vote for him. So, a bulk of Cruz voters came to the caucus knowing that Cruz was their guy. They were uninfluenced by last minute news reports.
Overall: Trump and Cruz have the highest number of voters who said they decided “more than a month” before the caucus to vote for their candidates. Rubio was far behind in this regard and Carson has the fewest number of voters in this category.
Translation: if anyone benefited from indecisive last minute voters, it was Rubio! Cruz and Trump’s voters already had their minds made up.
Cruz personally visited all 99 Iowa counties. His hard work paid off. Cruz has the highest number of voters (36%) who answered “Yes” to the question: “Did anyone personally contact you about coming out today to support your candidate?” Guess who has the fewest? Carson (10%).
Cruz braved the snow and humbly appeared before small crowds in quaint rural towns. Carson didn’t have a solid ground game. Even on the day of the caucus, he was counting down the seconds until he could jet home to sunny Florida.
WILL CARSON PRAY FOR CNN?
Carson said he would “pray” for Trump after Trump deliberately questioned his mental stability. But I guess he's not praying for CNN, or Cruz, after this mistake.
“I don’t want a person that’s got pathological disease,” Trump said about Carson. “If you’re pathological—there’s no cure for that, folks. There’s no cure for that.” Trump said that on purpose. Trump also intentionally stood before a huge crowd of Iowa voters and moved his belt buckle around while mocking and discrediting Carson’s childhood story of failing to stab a friend because of the friend’s belt buckle. Oddly, Carson never blamed his downward spiral from first place in Iowa—months ago—to fourth today on Trump’s purposeful slander.
Which is worse, a mistake or intentional slander? Carson acts like the mistake is worse.
Instead of praying for CNN, Carson urged the media to crucify Cruz. He demanded an apology from Cruz and told him to fire his staffers. Cruz, out of total graciousness, made the mistake of apologizing to Carson. Carson responded like a petulant child and continued to tweet all last week about “dirty tricks.”
But Cruz wouldn’t let an ABC reporter bully him with the ‘dirty tricks’ line: “Is it a dirty trick to pass on your news stories? You're in the business. Would you think it was if I forwarding an ABC story or just a dirty trick to pass on CNN stories?”Boom.
“THE MOST DECENT MAN”
Ben Carson has a reputation for being honorable. I personally have admired him for years, using my columns to lavish praise upon his work as a surgeon and politician. I even dedicated a portion of my book to laud his healthcare reform plan. So, I’m heartbroken and disappointed by his recent behavior.
The stakes are too high to let Carson’s claim of being cheated in Iowa go unchecked. We will lose the White House in 2016 to a socialist (Bernie) or a woman who treats confidential emails like cotton candy (Hillary) if we run a weak candidate. Last week, Carson fired over 50 of his staffers. His campaign had no traction going into Iowa. So why is he selfishly spreading rumors about the strongest Republicancandidate? Attention? Book sales? A TV gig? Who knows.
WORDS CAN NEVER HURT ME
Donald Trump immediately took advantage of Carson’s claims and demanded a “new election.” His sidekick, Sarah Palin, piped up on Facebook about “dirty tricks.” Cruz pushed back, saying: “It seems his reaction to everything is to throw a fit, and I understand that Donald finds it very hard to lose. But at the end of the day, the people of Iowa spoke.”
Trump curled up with his proverbial security blanket and quickly changed his tune from mean to docile. (It’s dangerous to bully a strong man. You’re liable to get hurt.) Within hours, Trump was telling talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that he has “always liked” Cruz and would consider Cruz for his VP. What a pivot!
A doctor. A businessman/reality-television star. Carson and Trump revel in their “outsider” status. Trump insists that he is pure as snow—incapable of being influenced by lobbies—because he “self-finances.” Carson reminds us that he is “not a politician”—even as he runs for president.
The presidential race is the Super Bowl of politics. Just as it would be unsportsmanlike for the losing football team to falsely accuse the winner of cheating to hide its own lack of preparation, it is very unsportsmanlike for Carson, Trump and Rubio to call Cruz a cheat to mask their own weak ground games in Iowa.
Now you know the rest of the story. Ben Carson is now a politician. Share the truth. The stakes are high.
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