Despite polls showing him well ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the South Carolina primary coming up in eight days, Donald Trump seems determined to keep pounding away at his rival, threatening on Friday afternoon to take him to court.
If Cruz doesn’t “clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads” Trump wrote on Twitter, his primary means of communication outside rallies, “I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen.”
Trump, who publicly pursued his futile obsession with proving that President Obama was not actually born in the United States, has in recent months turned a similar focus on Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father.
The general consensus is that because Cruz was a citizen at birth due to his mother’s citizenship, that he meets the requirement that any U.S. president be a “natural born” citizen. However, there has never been a legal decision making that determination, and a small but very real segment of the legal community believes that it remains a debatable question.
Cruz, who beat Trump in the Iowa caucuses but came in a distant third to the billionaire in New Hampshire, has been taking more and more incoming fire from the former reality television star. After retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson complained that on caucus night in Iowa Cruz supporters incorrectly informed Carson voters that their candidate was leaving the race, Trump took Carson’s side.
The fight was a twofer for Trump: He got to call Cruz a cheater in public – over and over again – and he also began to claim that he would have won the race if Cruz vote total hadn’t been padded with deluded Carson voters. It’s far from clear that either of those claims is true.
Trump’s “birther” attacks on Cruz seemed to have calmed down in recent weeks, but Friday’s flare-up could have several causes. First, Trump really wants to win, and sees Cruz as his most dangerous rival at the moment. Second, Trump appears to believe Cruz is conducting some sort of dirty tricks campaign against him in South Carolina – not an unlikely scenario in the Palmetto State.
On Thursday afternoon, Trump began a stream of tweets complaining about Cruz, which continued into Friday:
- “We are getting reports from many voters that the Cruz people are back to doing very sleazy and dishonest ‘pushpolls’ on me. We are watching!” [A push poll is a campaign tool that uses a contrived poll with loaded questions to indirectly attack another candidate.]
- “Cruz caught cold in lie after denial of push polls like lies w/ @RealBenCarson. How can he preach Christian values?”
- “Lying Cruz put out a statement, ‘Trump & Rubio are w/Obama on gay marriage.’ Cruz is the worst liar, crazy or very dishonest. Perhaps all 3?”
- “How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?”
The assault on Cruz appeared to culminate with the lawsuit threat on Friday afternoon.
There has been at least one attempt so far to challenge Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency – a laughably amateurish lawsuit filed in Houston last month. Whether Trump really thinks he would have a legal case is unclear. The more likely explanation is that he simply sees the birther questions as an effective line of attack against a troubling competitor, and will continue to use it as long as he thinks it is working.