Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio accused rival Ted Cruz on Tuesday of spreading a false news story suggesting Rubio was about to drop out.
“It ain’t true,” Rubio said on Fox News Radio. “It is a lie. It looks like Ted Cruz’s campaign is putting out emails in places like Hawaii, telling people about it.”
Politico reported Tuesday that Cruz’s surrogates in Hawaii had recently sent out an email titled: “WASTED VOTE.”
“According to multiple news sources, Marco Rubio’s advisers are telling him to drop out of the presidential race before losing his home state of Florida in a few days time,” the reported email said.
That was an apparent reference to a CNN report on Monday that the Rubio campaign labelled “absolutely 100% false.” CNN reported that “there’s been a serious internal debate” among Rubio’s advisers “about whether or not he should drop out before Florida.”
On Fox News Radio, Rubio connected the Cruz email to an incident during last month’s Iowa caucuses.
During the caucuses, Cruz’s campaign forwarded a news story to its precinct captains that suggested Ben Carson was about to drop out of the race. Cruz later apologised to Carson and said his team should have also passed along Carson’s denial.
Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder was even more forceful than the Florida senator. In a statement, Pounder said:
Senator Cruz is up to his dirty tricks again spreading false rumours and lies. We won’t allow him to do to Marco Rubio in Florida what he did to Ben Carson in Iowa. Floridians and voters across the country will reject Senator Cruz’s campaign of disgusting tactics because they know a vote for Cruz is a vote for Donald Trump.
A Rubio campaign source told Business Insider that his team was also aware of “numerous” Cruz operatives in Hawaii who were allegedly telling voters that Rubio was going to drop out soon. Hawaii’s Republican caucuses are on Tuesday.
But Cruz’s campaign issued a statement that attributed the dustup to “volunteers” who didn’t have the authority to send such messages on behalf of the campaign:
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