Huckabee Quits and Carson Heads Home: The GOP Shake-Up After Iowa
Policy + Politics

Huckabee Quits and Carson Heads Home: The GOP Shake-Up After Iowa

© Jim Young / Reuters

As expected, the Iowa caucuses helped separate some of the wheat from the chaff in the crowded Republican presidential primary.

The first votes of the 2016 election amounted to the last chance for a handful of GOP contenders and while only one candidate officially dropped out, Monday night’s contest left others badly wounded heading into New Hampshire’s Feb. 6 Republican debate and Feb. 9 primary.

Related: Donald Trump Rolls Snake Eyes in Iowa

Here’s how the caucuses shook out for the GOP’s lower-tier hopefuls.

Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor withdrew from the race after a dismal showing the caucuses, an event he won in 2008.

Huckabee earned less than 2 percent of the vote Monday night, compared to the 34.4 percent he received eight years ago. Evangelical voters, the core of Huckabee’s support in 2008, simply had too many choices this time around and went mostly for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the other top finishers, Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Related: How Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Both Won the Iowa Caucuses

Huckabee took to Twitter to announce he was dropping out.

Rick Santorum. The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, who won the 2012 caucuses, earned even fewer votes than Huckabee, coming in at around 1 percent.

Santorum didn’t hide the fact that he was staking his candidacy on winning Iowa, which makes his decision to push ahead to the GOP primary in South Carolina on Feb. 20 all the more unusual. He’s probably hoping lightning will strike as it did for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who upset Romney, the presumptive nominee, in the Palmetto State in 2012.

Related: Here’s the Big Advantage Ted Cruz Has as Voting Begins

Santorum shouldn’t hold his breath though: He’s at 0.3 percent in South Carolina, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon, who was once leading in some Iowa polls, came in fourth Monday night, garnering just over 9 percent.

But before the polls closed, a spokesman for Carson’s campaign announced he was going back to his home in Florida to take a break from the campaign trail.

The news prompted Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a major Cruz supporter, to declare Carson had dropped out of the race.

The finger-pointing carried into Tuesday, with Carson accusing other campaigns of “dirty tricks.”

“For months, my campaign has survived the lies and dirty tricks from my opponents who profess to detest the games of the political class, but in reality are masters of it,” he said in a statement. “Even tonight, my opponents resorted to political tricks by tweeting, texting and telling precinct captains that I had suspended my campaign – in some cases asking caucus goers to change their votes.”

That charge is “just false,” Rick Tyler, the Cruz campaign’s communications director, said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. "We simply as a campaign repeated what Ben Carson had said in his own words. That’s not a dirty trick.”

But later the caucus winner issued a statement apologizing to Carson.

“Last night when our political team saw the CNN post saying Dr. Carson was not carrying on to New Hampshire and South Carolina, our campaign updated the grassroots leaders just as we would with any breaking news story. That’s fair game.

“What the team should have done is send around the follow-up statement from the Carson campaign clarifying that he was indeed staying in the race when that came out,” said Cruz. “That was a mistake from our end, and for that I apologize to Dr. Carson.”

Carly Fiorina. With only about 2 percent of the vote, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO skipped her own caucus party and left Iowa early.

Fiorina’s campaign said she left to avoid an incoming winter storm, but it looks like no one was waiting for her, anyway.