New audio obtained exclusively by Breitbart News indicates that as the Iowa caucuses began on Monday night, the Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) campaign called precinct captains informing them that Dr. Ben Carson was suspending campaigning, and instructing them to tell voters they should “not waste a vote on Ben Carson and vote for Ted Cruz.”
The calls were placed after the Carson campaign had already clarified that Carson was not suspending his campaign.
Nancy Bliesman, a precinct captain for Cruz in Crawford County, Iowa, told Breitbart News that she received two voice mails–one at 7:07 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST), and one at 7:29 p.m.–on the night of the Iowa caucuses, which began at 7:00 p.m.
The first call came from a woman with a phone number out of Galveston, Texas at 7:07 p.m. (transcript follows audio):
[inaudible]…from the Ted Cruz campaign, calling to get to a precinct captain, and it has just been announced that Ben Carson is taking a leave of absence from the campaign trail, so it is very important that you tell any Ben Carson voters that for tonight, uh, that they not waste a vote on Ben Carson, and vote for Ted Cruz. He is taking a leave of absence from his campaign. All right? Thank you. Bye.
The second voicemail was left at 7:29 p.m. from an Iowa phone number that Breitbart News traced back to a Cruz campaign volunteer hotline.
Hello, this is the Cruz campaign with breaking news: Dr. Ben Carson will be [garbled] suspending campaigning following tonight’s caucuses. Please inform any Carson caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted instead. Thank you. Good night.
“My precinct people voted” without hearing the rumor that Carson would be suspending his campaign, Bliesman told Breitbart News. “Ben Carson did get his votes in our precinct ’cause I didn’t take the calls.”
Bliesman’s husband, who was also with her on Monday night, told Breitbart News that they were at the precinct labeled “DC-A-B,” which stands for the areas of Dow City, Arion and Buck Grove.
According to Mr. Bliesman, the total vote count in the precinct was as follows:
Donald Trump = 33
Sen. Marco Rubio = 15
Ben Carson = 12
Ted Cruz = 12
Carly Fiorina = 3
Jeb Bush = 2
John Kasich = 1
Chris Christie = 1
Sen. Rand Paul = 0
Ric Santorum = 0
Mike Huckabee = 0
Bliesman said there was a “huge turnout,” adding, “we had probably at least 100 percent increase from four years ago.”
“Everyone knows the mainstream media says things–whether it’s true or not, check it out,” she urged, saying she wishes the Carson campaign had been consulted before the report was spread.
The revelation about Cruz’s campaign calls and voicemails comes after an email surfaced from Cruz’s deputy Iowa campaign director Spence Rogers, sent at 6:56 p.m.–four minutes before caucuses began–suggesting that Carson would be “taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week.” The email told supporters: “Please inform any caucus goers of this news and urge them to caucus for Ted Cruz.”
Cruz apologized to Carson on Tuesday, saying his team should also have forwarded a subsequent after Carson clarified that he would not be suspending his campaign.
However, the Carson campaign had already clarified at 6:53 p.m. that he was not dropping out.
.@RealBenCarson will be going to Florida to get fresh clothes b4 heading back out on the campaign trail. Not standing down.
— Jason Osborne (@Jmrhosborne) February 2, 2016
The original report by Chris Moody of CNN at 6:44 p.m. had reported explicitly that Carson was not suspending his campaign.
Carson won't go to NH/SC, but instead will head home to Florida for some R&R. He'll be in DC Thursday for the National Prayer Breakfast.
— Chris Moody (@moody) February 2, 2016
On Thursday, he sent a message attacking the Cruz campaign, saying that “no attempts were made to verify the truth” about his departure, and that “no actions have been taken to correct the problem.”
The Cruz campaign referenced a clarifying tweet by CNN’s Chris Moody that was published at 7:30 p.m.
Cruz campaign spokesperson Catherine Frazier told Breitbart News on Thursday (via email):
The senator has already apologized for not more quickly making that clarification, and there is no evidence that our sharing of this news story impacted Carson’s campaign – he well outperformed expectations. The voicemails are in line with the reports that were made at that time. Our campaign shared an accurate report that Carson was suspending campaigning after the caucuses – he went home and he went to D.C. – and these voicemails do not suggest that he would completely drop out of the race.
Lastly, it should surprise no one that Carson’s initial announcement he was taking time off the trail would be a news story. It is highly unusual for candidates to take time off the trail between the first voting states.
Carson modestly out-performed his public poll average in Iowa by 1.6%.