Last night in Iowa, Ted Cruz’s campaign circulated a rumor about Ben Carson quitting his campaign. The rumor turned out to be untrue, and Carson’s staff is using it to explain their poor showing in the caucus. Below, you can read the fateful email that directed Cruz volunteers to turn confused Carson supporters into defectors.

It comes to us from a tipster who replied to a Gawker tweet that has nothing to do with this story, but hey:

The email, sent by a Cruz staffer in Iowa named Spence Rogers, was confirmed by outlets such as The Daily Caller and CNN. In a statement given to CNN this evening, Cruz said:

“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying that Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story,” Cruz said in a statement first shared with CNN. “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.”

CNN disputes Cruz’s contention that they were just following the network’s lead: “CNN reported that the retired neurosurgeon planned to go home to Florida after the Iowa caucuses rather than flying straight to New Hampshire or South Carolina.” As The Daily Caller points out, it’s unclear what “big announcement” the Cruz campaign was referring to in its email or where they may be sourcing that information from.

Who knows how much any of this mattered in the end. It’s conceivable that the three-point difference between Cruz and Trump came primarily if not wholly from siphoned Carson supporters, but that shift might have been set in motion long before last night. Exit polling showed that Cruz’s win was powered by Evangelicals, but observers had noticed Carson’s loosening grip on the Evangelical vote as far back as early December.

Ben Carson wasn’t going to come close to winning Iowa, email or not. But it has conveniently allowed him to save face.

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