Ben Carson's leaving the campaign trail — to get fresh clothes.
Carson's business manager and adviser Armstrong Williams told BuzzFeed News on Monday night that the neurosurgeon was leaving Iowa because of a scheduled trip back home to Florida to rest after weeks on the campaign trail.
"You know what it’s like being on the road campaigning for weeks?” Williams said in a phone interview. "Don't you need to refresh sometimes?" Williams also asked if the reporters sometimes needed to get themselves fresh clothes.
There have been conflicting reports over past hours about why Carson — whose stock has plummeted in recent months as a candidate, and whose campaign has burned through millions of dollars as top officials have quit — was leaving Iowa.
Some reported that Carson was going home to rest and would not travel to New Hampshire and South Carolina, while others suggested he was going home to beat a storm and would maintain his campaign schedule.
Carson skipped a radio interview this afternoon, as well, hours before the start of the caucuses. Prominent conservative radio host Simon Conway told BuzzFeed News that Carson had skipped the interview without giving the show any notice. Williams said that Carson's schedule "changes on a dime. Constantly."
"That's how this business works," he said.
The Simon Conway Show hosted other Republican candidates this afternoon, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum. Conway said he was not at all angry with Dr. Carson, but felt it was a missed opportunity for the candidate.
"They had a chance to talk to voters across the state on their way to caucus," he said. "For whatever reason, they blew it off."
Williams told BuzzFeed News that Carson's schedule will not change, and claimed that the trip home was always planned. He emphasized that Carson was "absolutely not" dropping out of the presidential race. "Are you kidding me?" he said to the question.
Williams further argued that reports and rumors that Carson had changed his schedule or was behaving unusually were being fueled by supporters of rival candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
Iowa congressman Steve King, a Cruz endorser and surrogate on the campaign trail, tweeted on Monday night that "Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope."
The Carson campaign accused the Cruz campaign last night of "dirty tricks" for suggesting to caucus-goers that Carson was leaving the race and that they should transfer their support to Cruz.
Speaking to reporters in Windham, New Hampshire this morning, Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said "CNN reported that the Carson campaign was not going to New Hampshire or South Carolina but instead was going to Florida and was going to DC. That’s a news story. We share news stories every day with our campaign we share hundreds of news stories every day with our campaign, that was another news story we shared with our campaign."
"I think an email was sent indicating what Carson said, in his own words, to CNN, which to me was a legitimate news story," Tyler told reporters. “No one on the campaign said he was going to drop out or suspend his campaign, that’s up to him.” Tyler compared skipping New Hampshire and South Carolina after Iowa to "skipping the playoff game and expecting to win the Super Bowl."
In a statement on Monday night, a Carson campaign spokesman said, "After spending 18 consecutive days on the campaign trail, Dr. Carson needs to go home and get a fresh set of clothes. He will be departing Des Moines later tonight to avoid the snow storm and will be back on the trail Wednesday. We look forward to tonight's caucus results and to meaningful debates in New Hampshire and South Carolina."
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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