Ben Carson's campaign just escalated its feud with Ted Cruz over 'dirty tricks' in Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s campaign has posted voicemails from the campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) telling Iowa precinct captains that Carson was “suspending campaigning” after the Iowa caucuses and that they should encourage people to caucus for Cruz instead.

It’s the latest escalation in a feud that has pervaded all week, after Cruz pulled off a surprise upset to win the Monday-night Iowa caucuses.

Real-estate mogul Donald Trump had been leading the polls there for weeks, but came in second place. He has subsequently accused Cruz of “fraud,” arguing, in part, that pushing Carson supporters to vote for Cruz instead helped propel him to victory and should “nullify” his win.

Trump released a letter from the Cruz campaign, reportedly sent to its Iowa precinct captains, that encouraged them to pass along the information that Carson was “taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week.” Citing press reports, the letter urged the precinct captains to tell caucus-goers to vote for Cruz instead.

The voicemail posted by Carson’s campaign featured a more direct implication about Carson’s status in the race, announcing: “Hello, this is the Cruz campaign with breaking news: Dr. Ben Carson will be suspending his campaign following tonight’s caucuses. Please inform any Carson caucus-goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted instead.”

Another call that went out earlier announced that Carson was “taking a leave of absence from the campaign trail.”

Hear the messages below:

Carson’s campaign announced on caucus night that Carson was returning to Florida to “get a fresh set of clothes.” After speculation about Carson dropping out started widely circulating, his campaign clarified that he was not leaving the race. Cruz supporters did not disseminate that information widely, something for which Cruz then apologised to Carson.

And the initial report from CNN didn’t suggest Carson was dropping out, either — reporter Chris Moody tweeted that Carson’s campaign told him that Carson “plans to stay in the race beyond Iowa no matter what the results are tonight.”

But a Cruz campaign spokeswoman told Breitbart News, which first obtained the voicemails, that the messages “are in line with the reports that were made at that time.”

“The senator has already apologised for not more quickly making that clarification, and there is no evidence that our sharing of this news story impacted Carson’s campaign — he well outperformed expectations,” she said in the statement.

She also denied that the voicemails said Carson was dropping out.

“The voicemails are in line with the reports that were made at that time,” she said. “Our campaign shared an accurate report that Carson was suspending campaigning after the caucuses — he went home and he went to DC — and these voicemails do not suggest that he would completely drop out of the race.”

Carson placed fourth in Iowa with 9.3% of the vote that night, indeed outperforming expectations from various polls leading up to the caucuses. But Carson decried the “dirty tricks” in Iowa, without naming Cruz specifically, in a speech that night.

Armstrong Williams, an informal adviser to Carson who is not affiliated with the campaign, told Business Insider on Friday that the Cruz campaign’s tactics in Iowa were deceptive and manipulative.

“No one has been fired,” Williams said. “No one has been reprimanded, and therefore, [Cruz] has given his blessing to these tactics.”

He characterised the Cruz campaign’s strategy as “win-at-all-costs” and denounced Cruz’s apology to Carson.

“An apology without some kind of deed to show that it’s sincere is meaningless,” Williams said. “It’s empty rhetoric.”

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