Let me clarify something upfront: I do not believe for a second that Ben Carson would have won the Iowa caucuses had Ted Cruz not pulled this dirty trick. I do not believe he would have even been a factor. In my pre-Iowa post last week I correctly predicted Dr. Carson would finish no better than 4th, and that despite leading in the polls at one point, he would struggle to reach double-digits once the numbers came in. Carson finished 4th, with 9% of the vote.
Ted Cruz and his campaign LIED to voters in Iowa. They cheated. His staff forwarded information to his surrogates (like influential Iowa Congressman Steve King) who Tweeted it to all their followers, and soon the internet was buzzing with word of Carson’s imminent withdrawal from the race for the Republican nomination. Except it was not true. And it was based on a poorly worded sentence from CNN. And come on, Cruz and his team are campaigning for the most important job in the world. They may be repulsive folks with misguided beliefs, but they are not stupid, nor are they ignorant about politics. They KNEW Carson was not dropping out and they told people he was anyway.
CNN is a joke. I have written often on how they are one of the least reliable news outlets in America. The Al Jazeera article about Peyton Manning and HGH had more credibility and more trusted sources than most of what makes the air on CNN. In a nutshell, they pride themselves on being FIRST with a story. if it is inaccurate in some way, they can fix it later, but at least they could claim having broken the story. Basically, CNN reported Monday night that Ben Carson was going home to Florida instead of flying directly to the early voting states New Hampshire and South Carolina. The network added that he planned to stay in the race.
Here is a quote from Ted Cruz defending what he and his team did:
“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story. That’s fair game. What the team then should have done was send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out.”
Yes, in Iowa as in New Hampshire, the voters who show up to help winnow the field are quite serious about their role. They read. They watch. They listen. The follow candidates and surrogates on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Cruz and his team put it on blast that Carson was dropping out and that “Iowa voters need to know before they caucus” and then failed to follow up with the most critical part of the story. Half a truth is still a lie.
How about this example? Have you seen the video of Ted Cruz at the campaign stop with his young daughter?
Now that is funny, but kids will be kids.
But what if the CNN headline read, “A visibly frustrated Ted Cruz hits his young daughter in the face as reports look on horrified”?
And then they went on to mention that he his awkward kiss, that she was clearly resisting, managed to hit her cheek even as she recoiled in horror and the media stared uncomfortably.
Would the story portray an accurate depiction of the event if only the first sentence were passed along? Absolutely not. And neither did the Cruz team’s passing along of information about Ben Carson they KNEW was false in the hope that people would not find out the truth before that had already switched away from Carson.
Cruz also went the route of public shaming. His team targeted neighborhoods they deemed to be fertile ground for the type of Tea Party zealots and evangelicals most likely to support his campaign. The campaign then availed themselves of some public records available for a fee.
What he did next, while legal, is still despicable.
Yes, he mailed out official looking forms emblazoned with red letters reading VOTING VIOLATION. People received report cards based on if they had voted in recent election cycles. And he named names. The mailers for each neighborhood gave letter-grades from A to F for the recipient AND their surrounding neighbors. Call it peer pressure. Call it embarrassment. Call it what you will.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate called it this way, “Accusing citizens of Iowa of a ‘voting violation’ based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act. There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses.”
Ted Cruz, however, responded, “I will apologize to no one for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote.”
In the spirit of all things Ted Cruz, and especially in light of his recent sandbagging of Ben Carson, we should just pare his statement by half, to what really should have been his campaign slogan all along, “I will apologize to no one.”