Ben Carson’s campaign pushed back against speculation Monday night that his decision to go home to Florida immediately following the Iowa caucuses reflects any scaling down of his flagging campaign.
“I’m going home to get some fresh clothes,” Carson told reporters in Iowa.
Carson said he would quickly go back to Florida to get new clothes, before heading to Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast, where his 2013 keynote speech helped launch him onto the national stage. He is due to arrive in New Hampshire by Friday.
Many other candidates are expected to go straight to New Hampshire after the caucuses. But political observers were quick to note Carson’s decision on social media, after it was first noted by CNN’s Chris Moody.
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has endorsed Ted Cruz, said it cast Carson’s continuing competitiveness in the race into question.
Carson, who once led the polls in Iowa only to see his campaign founder amid questions about his grasp of foreign policy and campaign infighting, dismissed it as a non-story: “Sabotage never stops.”
“Contrary to false media reports, Dr. Ben Carson is not suspending his presidential campaign, which is stronger than ever,” the campaign said in a statement later. “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.”
-With reporting by Tessa Berenson in Urbandale, Iowa