Caucus night is inherently wacky and, in a year when the Republican presidential front-runner is a reality TV star, journalists covering the proceedings in Iowa surely anticipated something they've never seen before.
But surely not this.
Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who briefly led the GOP field just a few months ago, announced that after voting concludes in the Hawkeye State, he will not hurry off to campaign in New Hampshire, site of the nation's first primary next Tuesday, like everyone else. Nor will he head to South Carolina, whose primary follows 11 days later.
Instead, he will go home to Florida to rest and — this is the best part — "get some fresh clothes."
Im with Carson now, "I'm going home to get some fresh clothes," he says
— Tessa Berenson (@tcberenson) February 2, 2016
As a Massachusetts native from a family of 10 that frequently scooted north to shop in the tax-free Granite State, I can assure Dr. Carson that he would have no trouble finding some fresh threads in New Hampshire. (I recommend Settlers Green in North Conway. Great selection. Also, cupcakes.)
(Note: several readers have emailed to say that Massachusetts does not tax clothing, either, and that Carson could, as one reader put it, "shop south of the [Massachusetts-New Hampshire] border to save some cash and better yet, since he is a Republican, not feed the government that they all profess to hate." That's not entirely accurate, however. Clothing items that cost more than $175 — like, say, suits for a presidential candidate — are taxed at 6.25 percent. Most other states tax all clothing purchases. New Hampshire is one of the few places Carson could freshen up his wardrobe tax-free.)
Political reporters and strategists have no idea what to make of Carson's decision. The most obvious theory is that he is preparing to drop out, but his campaign insists that is not the case.
Carson camp statement: He's only going home after IA to "get a fresh set of clothes" pic.twitter.com/aJPwIFAG1S
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 2, 2016
There it is again: Fresh clothes. In fact, no fewer than three Carson aides reached by various members of The Washington Post staff cited the need for them in announcing why Carson was departing the campaign trail. This wasn't just an offhand excuse from Carson himself; it was the company line.
Thus, we're all left baffled. I mean, it's hardly surprising that a 64-year old — well, anyone, really — would be tired after months of a grueling campaign, but a presidential candidate isn't supposed to let on, right? I can hear Donald Trump's voice in my head: "low energy."
Here's a sampling of how Carson's announcement was received, starting with a top former Mitt Romney aide:
We used to rely on laundromats and dry cleaners. Times change, I guess. https://t.co/N7HDIf2L5P
— Eric Fehrnstrom (@EricFehrn) February 2, 2016
"I got to go home to get a fresh set of clothes" is the new "I have to return some videotapes." #IowaCaucus
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) February 2, 2016
A parody Twitter account of Carson's washing machine can't be far behind, can it? https://t.co/MEmUB93TaG
— Scott Helman (@swhelman) February 2, 2016
I find it annoying to go to my apt building’s basement to do laundry. I certainly wouldn’t fly to Florida for it. https://t.co/Sw3kLEgFkl
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) February 2, 2016
Ben Carson is going home after Iowa, either for a nap or some fresh clothes. https://t.co/mpJPXos7T8
— New Republic (@NewRepublic) February 2, 2016
CBS ENTRANCE POLL: 3% of Ben Carson supporters think he needs fresh clothes.
— CAFE (@cafedotcom) February 2, 2016
— Andrea Purse (@drepurse) February 2, 2016
Ben Carson going to Florida "to get fresh clothes", fresh clothes apparently not a metaphor https://t.co/TtS16IsK9R
— Adam Gabbatt (@adamgabbatt) February 2, 2016
Whether Carson realizes it or not, the laundry trip is especially funny because of this line from a debate last month:
"You know, when you go into the store and buy a box of laundry detergent, and the price has gone up — you know, 50 cents because of regulations — a poor person notices that," Carson said.
Apparently, these costs are now prohibitive even for a wealthy retired neurosurgeon raising tens of millions of dollars for his campaign.
— Nicole File (@NicoleJMFile) January 15, 2016
Ben Carson: stop regulating laundry detergent. #2016clowncar
— Peter Frost (@peterfrost) January 15, 2016
Regulations are taxes on laundry detergent. Colors are flavors. Birds are secrets. #BenCarson
— Tim Price (@txprice) January 15, 2016
Hey, maybe Carson is just being frugal — you know, exercising the kind of fiscal discipline we need in the White House.