If you thought the GOP presidential race was veering back toward sanity after the Iowa caucuses, think again.
Donald Trump went ballistic, demanding a new election in the Hawkeye State and accusing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) of voter fraud (both for sending a shady “voter violation” mailer and fanning false rumors that Ben Carson was quitting the race). He tweeted, “Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.” He also told the press he just might sue Iowa or Cruz or someone. His favorite surrogate Sarah Palin added her two cents, also accusing Cruz of “dirty tricks.” (In a Facebook spiel, she said she found it “so curious — and saddens us — this lack of accountability with the lies of Cruz’s own campaign.” (By the way, Trump, the guy who says “great management” will solve our problems, inadvertently undercut the rationale for his campaign on Tuesday, observing that, in Iowa, “in retrospect, we could have done much better with the ground game, yes.” So much for managerial competence.)
Carson, who previously said he was going home for “a change of clothes” showed up in Washington to hold a press conference in which he railed at Cruz’s tactics. “It’s clear that there were people who tried to take advantage of a situation,” he said without using Cruz’s name. He added some scripture. (“By their fruit you will know them.”) All righty, then.
Carson adviser Armstrong Williams pronounced Cruz’s tactics “nasty, brutal and deceitful.” He argued, “He’s a pure politician and will do anything to win. It doesn’t matter who he does it to, friend or foe, whatever it takes to win. Cruz has been running as an outsider and calling Hillary Clinton dishonest. Well, Cruz is the one running without honor or integrity, and this shows he’s just like everyone else inside-the-beltway.”
Cruz probably won’t be waiting up for the Carson endorsement. Carson, however, found a way to be relevant and is raising money from the flap. He does not have any campaign events before the next Republican debate, on Feb. 6. Cruz weighed in, first tweeting, “Yet another #Trumpertantrum.” Cruz then went on a riff, declaring, “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. There’s a reason that Donald engages in insult after insult — because he can’t debate the substance.” He cracked that “we’re liable to wake up one day and Donald, as president, will have nuked Denmark.” He added for good measure, “You know, my girls are five and seven. And I got tell you, Caroline and Catherine are better behaved than a presidential candidate who insults people every day.” Well, no more Mr. Nice Guy for Cruz and so much for his refusal to insult the real estate mogul. He nevertheless insisted there would be no consequences for his errant staffers.
Not to be left out of the headlines, Jeb Bush, after delivering what was supposed to be an applause line at a stop in New Hampshire, implored the audience, “Please clap.” The media seized on the moment as an unfortunate metaphor for a campaign that never really roused GOP voters.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, realizing his campaign is drawing to a close, went haywire. He repeatedly called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a “boy in the bubble” and argued that, like a dirty truck stuck in the mud, he should be the voters’ pick. (“Two different types of trucks in this race, man. There’s the Marco Rubio/Ted Cruz truck — it’s the new, shiny, smells-nice truck. And there’s the Chris Christie truck — it’s old. It’s beat up. It’s nicked up. It doesn’t smell as good as it used to. But, man, the Chris Christie truck does know how to get out of the mud, you know why? Because it’s been in the mud before.”) Or something. Later, in a Fox News interview, Christie complained that Rubio’s town halls were only 45 minutes while his were two hours. It’s not clear why that should be an issue, but Christie has reached the stage where he throws everything up against the wall and sees what sticks. It was telling that the Rubio camp did not bother responding.
Rubio tried his best not to interrupt opponents who were making fools of themselves. He avoided Trump and returned to the line of attack he has been on for several weeks against Cruz. “Obviously, we’ve all seen the reports of the rumors they spread about Ben Carson, and you know those weren’t accurate and I thought it was unfair to Ben,” he said. “You know, ultimately I think it goes back to what I said before — and that is [Cruz’s] willingness to say or do anything, in this case, spread a false rumor about Ben Carson.”
Taking a step back, on Wednesday Rick Santorum and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got out of the race. After New Hampshire a bunch of others are likely to do the same. That will likely leave Trump, Cruz, Rubio and maybe one other contender. On the other hand, Trump may be in the process of melting down, finally, which will leave us with even fewer legitimate contenders. One would think a slimmed-down field would help focus the voters on the serious choice before them. However, the food fight many are engaging in sure won’t help.