DES MOINES, Iowa — No matter what happens in Iowa on Monday night, Ben Carson will go home to Florida on Tuesday instead of flying directly to early-voting states New Hampshire and South Carolina, just as the 2016 Republican primary swings into high gear, campaign chairman Bob Dees said.
To get a jump on the traffic out of Iowa, Carson is expected to speak at a “victory party” before the final caucus results are in.
In early voting, with 25% of the precincts reporting in Iowa, Carson had about 10% of the vote and was in fourth place behind Ted Cruz (30%), Donald Trump (27%) and Marco Rubio (19%).
Campaign manager Ed Brookover characterized the break as a “deep breath” after Iowa. He said that no matter what happens Monday night, Carson has no plans to leave the race.
Larry Ross, a spokesman for Carson, insisted in a statement that the retired neurosurgeon “is not suspending his presidential campaign, which is stronger than ever.”
“After spending 18 consecutive days on the campaign trail, Dr. Carson needs to go home and get a fresh set of clothes,” Ross said. “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.”
Carson will remain in Florida until he travels to the Washington, D.C., area for meetings on Wednesday. He’ll attend the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, and then he’ll head to North Carolina for a fundraiser and New Hampshire for Saturday’s Republican debate.
Despite the unusual travel plan, the retired neurosurgeon projected confidence as voters packed caucus sites across the Hawkeye State, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier on Monday that he believes there is “a very strong chance” he’ll finish among the top three candidates.
“The people who support me are extremely enthusiastic,” Carson said, suggesting pollsters have underestimated his backing.
Carson told Blitzer he would reassess his campaign no matter where he finishes in Iowa. The most recent polls out of the state showed him far behind national front-runner Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who entered the night a close second in most surveys.