Ben Carson’s Weird Vendetta Against Ted Cruz

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Ben Carson Campaigns In Iowa As Caucuses Draw Near
Wonder how Ben Carson would handle a really vicious campaign like the ones Lee Atwater used to run?Photo: Joshua Lott/2016 Getty Images

It’s understandable that Ben Carson and his staff and supporters were upset on the night of the Iowa caucuses when they learned that a tweet from congressman Steve King and an email from Ted Cruz’s deputy state director suggested Carson might be leaving (or at least taking a break from, as he has been prone to do) the Republican race before long. But it was probably an upsetting night for Carson generally, since he finished a poor fourth (though not as upsetting as it was for the eight candidates who finished behind him!). And it’s hardly surprising that Donald Trump and Iowa governor Terry Branstad have piled on; both of them lost face with Cruz’s victory and can be expected to question its legitimacy. Most people assuredly laughed at Trump’s demand for a redo of the caucuses because of Cruz’s “voter fraud”; here as in virtually every other case when you hear a Republican allege this crime, it’s theater. 

But Carson seems to be going off the deep end about it all, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney:

Five days from the New Hampshire primary, Ben Carson has yet to set foot in this state since his fourth-place finish in Iowa. His detour to Florida for a fresh set of clothes has become a running joke online. The candidate is, by all indications, consumed by what he calls the “dirty tricks” of Ted Cruz’s campaign.

Dr. Carson feels absolutely robbed, violated,” said Armstrong Williams, a Carson confidant, in a phone interview. “He realizes, the Democrats are not his enemies trying to malign him. It’s people who smile in his face, shake his hand, go out to dinner with him — and yet, they’re trying to destroy him behind his back.”

Aside from the fact that the one thing sure to damage Dr. Carson’s campaign more than a meh result from Iowa is to stop campaigning, you have to wonder what he expected. The 9 percent he ultimately received in Iowa was above his RealClearPolitics polling average; the final pre-caucus poll, from Emerson College, pegged him at 3 percent. Did he somehow think he was going to win? Or, in his frustration, is he simply lashing out at the most proximate object, the candidate who lured away much of Carson’s conservative Evangelical base?

If Carson doesn’t get a grip, maybe Republicans (or at least those Republicans who don’t perceive themselves as benefiting from his attacks on Cruz) will finally get a good whiff of the rich wing-nuttiness the doctor brings to the table. This is the candidate who has followed Glenn Beck in heavily appropriating the works of the late Bircher theorist W. Cleon Skousen, who in the first GOP debate accused Hillary Clinton of being an Alinskyite consciously trying to destroy the country, and who has with interminable redundancy attacked any concern about bigotry as “political correctness.”

You have to wonder if Carson will now blame Cruz for what will be a very poor performance in New Hampshire, and then follow the Texan around the country, complaining constantly about “dirty tricks.” And how do you suppose the surgeon would have handled a really vicious campaign like the ones Lee Atwater used to run? His reaction would not be “politically correct.”