DES MOINES — Donald Trump's gracious acceptance of his second-place finish in Iowa was short-lived. He now says he lost because Ted Cruz committed fraud.

The billionaire went on a public rant Wednesday, accusing Cruz of stealing the Iowa caucuses Monday by poaching Ben Carson's supporters.

"Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Cruz won Iowa, while Trump came in second place. Carson wound up in fourth place, behind Marco Rubio.

Both Carson and Cruz were courting the same influential GOP base of evangelical voters.

The Cruz campaign sent an email to its backers on Monday urging them to inform caucusgoers that Carson planned to exit the race.

U.S. Rep. Steve King of western Iowa, who had endorsed Cruz, even tweeted the rumor on Twitter — saying he hoped that Carson's supporters would vote for Cruz rather than for a candidate who planned to get out of the race.

Both Cruz and King have since apologized. They said they based their initial report on a media story that said Carson was taking a break from the campaign trail. CNN had reported that Carson was returning to Florida for a day or two after Iowa to get clean clothes and to rest.

Carson tried to clear up any confusion later Monday night, saying he planned to return to the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Since then, Carson has expressed outrage about the misinformation, describing it as "shameless tactics & dirty political plays."

Trump said he would have won Iowa if the Carson rumor had not been allowed to spread, suggesting that Cruz picked up votes that would have otherwise gone to Carson.

Trump argued that Iowa should hold new caucuses or "nullify" the Cruz victory.

"The State of Iowa should disqualify Ted Cruz from the most recent election on the basis that he cheated — a total fraud," Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Trump's Twitter rant was a far cry from his concession speech on Monday evening, when he said he loved Iowa even though he landed in second. At one point, he joked about returning to the state to buy a farm.

Cruz questioned Trump's fitness to serve as president in the face of his latest Twitter blasts, accusing the New Yorker of throwing a "tantrum."

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