MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) campaign began spreading rumors ahead of Monday night's Iowa caucus that Ben Carson was dropping his presidential campaign, and the indignation in Carson world remains.
The neurosurgeon, for his part, has said he accepts Cruz's apology for the incident. But at a campaign event here on Saturday, Carson still appeared to be smarting over the dirty tricks.
"One of the things that really kind of disappointed me about events in Iowa this week is that people would actually think that I was the kind of person that after so many workers, college students that came and volunteered their tails off -- one even lost his life -- that I would just say, 'Eh, I'm out of here,'" he said. "I'm just saddened by the fact that so many people just don't really have the kind of ethical base now where they understand that."
But Carson's supporters -- and even undecided voters who happened to be checking out the event -- were more enraged.
"We forgive people, but we are not stupid," said Jim McKearin, a Carson supporter who attended a phone banking event that got so crowded and hot that attendees had to remove layers of clothing. "I can forgive [Cruz], but would I vote for him? No. Because he has shown himself to be untrustworthy."
"That was pretty shady," said Patty Turner, an undecided voter from Manchester. "I have a hard time with the fact that he fights with everybody. Nothing he does or says ever makes me feel positive."
"I wouldn't buy a used car from this person," Mark Sullivan, who had traveled from Wheaton, Massachusetts, to check out the primary, said of Cruz.
The extent to which the Cruz campaign actively pushed false reports of Carson's departure from the race has become clearer in the days since Cruz won the Iowa caucus and Carson finished a distant fourth. According to reports, Cruz's campaign and surrogates told campaign volunteers the rumor and had precinct captains announce it during caucuses, in addition to spreading it on Twitter. Cruz's team called supporters and left messages saying Carson was going to drop out, and that they should "inform any Carson caucusgoers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted instead," The New York Times reported.
That was pretty shady. Patty Turner, an undecided voter from Manchester
The Cruz camp has since defended its actions by saying it got its information from third-party reports of Carson's impending exit. Those reports -- if they can even be called that -- were based off Carson's decision to go home to Florida after the Iowa vote, and not directly to New Hampshire like most other candidates. Carson said he had gone home to get some fresh clothes.
"Maybe I should never go home for another change of clothes," he said on Saturday. "But the way I grew up you, don't just throw your clothes away and buy new ones."
Cruz did call Carson to apologize. But on the trail in New Hampshire, he has continued arguing that his campaign made an honest mistake.
Murray Carson, Ben's 32-year-old son, said on Saturday that he was "still trying to hope" that Cruz himself wasn't behind the smear effort.
"I thought it was unfortunate," he said. "Because I knew he wasn't [dropping out] for a couple of days at that point. But I knew he wasn't dropping out, because I know he's not doing it for himself. It's unfortunate that some people were deceived by that. I guess that's politics sometimes."
Some of the neurosurgeon's supporters, however, said they would take Cruz at his word about not having signed off on the campaigning tactic.
"Sometimes people in support of their candidate will do things thinking they're helping, when in fact, they're not. I think that's what may have happened there," said Roland Kostiew, 71, of Salem, New Hampshire. "But if he ever gets to the bottom of it, he should definitely look at these folks and chastise them in a way that they know that nothing of this nature should ever be permitted."