The two leading Republican presidential candidates traded insults Wednesday, two days after Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses in what his rival, Donald Trump, called theft.
Trump accused rival Ted Cruz of stealing the Iowa caucuses and demanded a do-over, over claims that Cruz's campaign told followers of another candidate that he was dropping out and convinced them to join the Cruz camp. That prompted a response from Cruz that the billionaire businessman was having a "Trumpertantrum."
"He's losing it," Cruz told reporters.
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The back-and-forth between two candidates who once made of a show of their rapport underscored the shifting dynamic in a Republican race rattled by the Iowa results.
On his official Twitter account Wednesday, Trump said: "Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified." He based his claim of fraud largely on developments that had been known for days and had not stopped him from congratulating Cruz on his victory Monday night.
Later Wednesday, Buzzfeed reported that Trump said he "probably will" sue, when asked on Boston Herald Radio: "I probably will; what he did is unthinkable. He said the man has left the race and he said it during the caucus. And then when the clarification was put out by Ben Carson saying it’s untrue, they got the statement and they didn’t put it out."
Trump came in second behind Cruz in Monday's leadoff Iowa caucuses – which he had previously described on Twitter as a "long-shot great finish."
Carson this week accused Cruz's campaign of the "dirty trick" of spreading false rumors to caucus-goers that he was dropping out of the race when he had instead been heading home to Florida to get "fresh clothes."
Cruz said in a statement that his campaign had misinterpreted a CNN story and "our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story."
"That's fair game. What the team then should have done was send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out," Cruz's statement continued. "This was a mistake from our end, and for that I apologize to Dr. Carson."
Carson said he accepted the apology, NBC News reported. But at a press conference Wednesday, he made an oblique reference to Cruz's campaign, saying that Cruz told him he was unaware of anyone spreading rumors but that some in his organization carried the scheme out.
"It's clear that there were people who tried to take advantage of a situtaion, who tried to distort information," Carson told reporters.
A Cruz campaign spokesman responded to Trump's tweets by saying Wednesday that the candidate should get therapy for his Twitter "addiction," NBC News reported.
"Reality has hit the reality star," spokesman Rick Tyler said. "Since Iowa, no one is talking about Donald Trump. That's why he's popping off on Twitter. There are Twitter addiction therapy groups, and he should check in with his local chapter."
The Texas senator also joined the fray, comparing Trump to his Democratic rival Bernie Sanders and accusing him of having "yet another #Trumpertantrum."
Before Trump's latest burst of Twitter activity, he said earlier Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show that he was "semi-satisfied" with his performance in Iowa.
"I came in second and nobody said it was a victory. It's kind of strange," Trump said.
He added that he beat "a lot of senators, a lot of governors."
"They do it professionally, I've never done this before," he said. "I'm not a professional politician and I came in second."