With Donald Trump threatening to sue Ted Cruz over the Texas senator’s natural born status and Ted Cruz engaged in rather questionable tactics against the former entertainer and real estate mogul, it’s becoming clear that Cruz and Trump are set to battle in what may be the ugliest GOP debate yet.
Trump tweeted a clear and open threat at his Canadian-born rival Ted Cruz earlier this week.
If @TedCruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2016
In response, Cruz, whose mother is American, responded, “There’s more than a little irony in Donald accusing anybody of being nasty given the amazing torrent of insults and obscenities that come out of his mouth on any given day. Suddenly every day he comes out with a new attack.”
The attacks between Trump and Cruz, who began the primary very friendly with one another, have grown increasingly pointed, especially since Cruz took Iowa, a large blow to Trump, who had been leading in the polls. Furthermore, Trump, who has never shied away from a fight, is expected to carry these attacks with him onto the stage at the final GOP debate before the South Carolina primary on Saturday.
But Cruz is not unprepared. In a state that prizes faith and conservatism, Cruz’s allies say that their candidate is prepared to question Trump’s “credentials,” highlighting his faith that many view as calculated, as well as his lack of standing, historically, as a conservative.
Charlie Condon, a former attorney general for South Carolina and a Cruz surrogate, quickly points to Trump’s previous positions on such hot topics as abortion, health care, and Wall Street bailouts as clear weaknesses for Trump.
“There’s a Himalayan mountain of evidence out there that Donald Trump is not a conservative. I’m confident that everything I’m telling you will be discussed at the Peace Center.”
In fact, Condon believes that the more Trump attacks Cruz, the more viable Cruz will seem as the Trump “alternative” in a race where many believe Trump is now inevitable.
“It’s a recognition of what we think the reality is: This is becoming a two-man race. So if you’re not comfortable with Donald Trump being president, whether for temperament reasons or judgment reasons or the fact that he really is a campaign conservative — he’s been a Democrat almost his whole life…if you’re uncomfortable with that…Cruz is the alternative.”
A spokesman for Cruz, Rick Tyler, dismissed Trump completely, despite the fact that he is still the clear Republican frontrunner.
“This is the Seinfeld candidacy,” Tyler said. “It’s a campaign about nothing.”
The polls in South Carolina show Trump with a stunning double-digit lead over Cruz, who has taken questionable political tactics to an extreme — in Iowa, his campaign left patently false recorded messages for voters that claimed Ben Carson was dropping out of the presidential race after Iowa and urging Carson supporters to instead caucus for Cruz. Cruz also sent out mailers that many voters considered “high pressure” and inappropriate.
— Texas Standard (@TexasStandard) February 1, 2016
Trump and his campaign staffers have taken Cruz to task over his tactics.
“I’ve worked campaigns for long time and I’ve never seen the stuff Cruz is putting out,” said one staffer.
According to the current Real Clear Politics average, Trump is a clear first in South Carolina with 37 percent, followed by Cruz at a distant 20 percent, with Marco Rubio at an even more distant 14 percent in third place.
“As we approach South Carolina, Trump’s competitors will grow increasingly desperate,” said Seth Weathers, a Trump supporter who also formerly served as the businessman’s George state director. In response to Trump’s open threat to sue Ted Cruz, Weathers was clear.
“Trump’s tweet was a reminder that he doesn’t take attacks lying down. He never attacks first, but when he responds, he unleashes hell.”
The GOP debate is set to air on Saturday, February 13th, at 8 p.m. CST.
[Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images]