Some prominent Republicans are siding with Donald Trump after his stunning loss in the Iowa caucuses this week, which he blamed on shady tactics by the campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
After leading the Iowa polls for weeks, Trump came in second to Cruz. Trump initially conceded gracefully, but then fired off an angry tweetstorm on Wednesday accusing Cruz of fraud and saying he “stole” the caucuses.
Trump’s accusation was based on Cruz supporters circulating a CNN report on a third candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, suddenly flying home on the night of the Iowa caucuses.
This stoked speculation that Carson was on the verge of dropping out of the race. Carson himself has repeatedly accused the Cruz campaign of playing “dirty tricks” in order to grab his supporters in Iowa.
Since Trump started lobbing his attacks, some big-name Republicans have piled on Cruz and suggested that the real-estate mogul would have actually won the Iowa caucuses were it not for the Cruz campaign’s allegedly shady tactics.
Those names include Republican strategist Karl Rove and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R). It’s worth noting that Cruz’s campaign is widely opposed by the Washington establishment and Branstad made an unusual statement before the Iowa caucuses urging his state to reject Cruz.
On the other hand, Rove is not friend of Trump, who has for months used insults like “dopey” and “dummy” to describe him on Twitter.
Rove said Wednesday night on “The O’Reilly Factor” that the Cruz campaign distributing the CNN report to its precinct captains could have cost Trump the race. The reported letter told the Cruz officials to “inform any Carson caucus-goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz.”
“The gap between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is 6,239 votes. There are 1,500 precincts. Do the maths,” Rove said.
“If this message caused precinct captains in the precincts to tell Carson people, ‘Your guy is getting out, he’s having a big announcement later this week, caucus with us,'” Rove said. “If that cost Carson four votes per precinct to switch to Cruz, then Cruz beats Trump. If he doesn’t switch four, then he loses.”
Branstad similarly called out the Cruz campaign for its “questionable” tactics. In an interview with Radio Iowa on Thursday, Branstad said the Carson note was “unethical and unfair.”
“This thing that they distributed on Caucus night saying that Dr. Carson was likely to drop out and his supporters should support Cruz, that is, I think, unethical and unfair,” Branstad said. “I think there’ll be repercussions to that.”
Branstad also called the Carson note “inappropriate.” He stopped short of saying that Trump’s loss was the result of the Cruz campaign’s tactics, however, noting that skipping the Fox News debate last week probably hurt him.
Cruz apologised to Carson on Tuesday and said his team should have also distributed Carson’s statement denying the rumour that he was about to exit the race.
But at the same time, Cruz has dismissed Trump’s raging tweetstorm and threat to sue over the Iowa results. Cruz referred to Trump’s attacks as a “Trump-er tantrum” and questioned whether the businessman has the right temperament to be president.
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