Cruz dismisses Carson flap, blasts ‘Trump-ertantrums’ at NH town hall

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NASHUA — A defensive Ted Cruz justified his attempt to woo Iowa voters away from GOP rival Ben Carson at a town hall forum Wednesday in New Hampshire, less than a week before the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary and two days after winning the Iowa caucuses.

On Tuesday, Carson, a retired neurosurgeon whose outsider campaign has appealed to evangelical voters heavily pursued by Cruz, condemned Cruz for sending an email to Iowa voters hours before the start of the caucuses, suggesting that Carson planned to drop out of the race.

Cruz’s staff sent an email to voters Monday containing a CNN news story about Carson’s plans to return home to Florida after Iowa, rather than head directly to New Hampshire. CNN did not say that Carson intends to drop out, and Carson’s campaign later explained that the candidate simply wanted to go home to get some fresh clothes after being on the road for 17 days.

But the implication of team Cruz’s 11th hour email was clear: Iowa voters should think twice about wasting their vote on Carson because he might not be around much longer.

GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Cruz of “stealing” the election with his misleading email blast, an accusation Cruz firmly denies.

In Nashua, Cruz admitted that his team had sent the email and apologized for not subsequently forwarding Carson’s statement that he has no intention of exiting the race for the Republican nomination for president.

“That was a mistake,” Cruz said, claiming that he personally called Carson, whom he called a friend, to apologize for the error.

But the freshman senator from Texas blasted Trump for making the issue a bigger deal than it is.

“The word Donald used was ‘fraud,’” Cruz said, “But our political team forwarded a news story from CNN that was accurate. Ben Carson did in fact fly to Florida and did not go to New Hampshire or South Carolina.”

Cruz spent much of the evening critiquing his two biggest competitors for the GOP nomination, Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who tied Trump in Iowa’s delegate distribution on Monday.

“Donald doesn’t take losing well,” Cruz told the town hall audience. “But I don’t think the people of New Hampshire are interested in temper tantrums, or, you could call it a Trump-ertantrum.”

Cruz was joined for much of his presentation by Jeff Kuhner, a conservative radio talk show host for Boston’s WRKO. Kuhner sat by the candidate and asked him questions to set Cruz up to address some of the latest controversies between him and his rivals.

“Six weeks ago Donald was telling everyone he loved me, I was his friend, I was terrific,” Cruz said. “Then suddenly his poll numbers started dropping, ours started surging, and he apparently didn’t take that very well.”

In response to Kuhner’s question about former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s recent criticism of the Cruz campaign, Cruz claimed that Palin is a friend.

“It seems if you spend too much time with Donald Trump, strange things happen to you,” Cruz joked.

Cruz also claimed that Rubio is not a true conservative and likened his immigration views to those of Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Cruz and Rubio, both the sons of Cuban immigrants, have sparred for weeks over immigration.

The Wednesday evening event was briefly interrupted when Cruz addressed a question from the audience on climate change and the Syrian water crisis. Across the auditorium, a small group of college-aged protesters stood up and began shouting for Cruz to “stop the climate lies.”

Cruz condemned to protestors and quipped that “these children attended the Donald Trump-style school of debate.” He then used the interruption as an opportunity to criticize college students today, saying that American children are too coddled.