Donald Trump’s efforts to stir up controversy over Ted Cruz’s citizenship has earned the Republican presidential frontrunner some unlikely admirers.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest seemed to enjoy the situation.
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"It would be quite ironic if after seven or eight years of drama around the president's birth certificate, if Republican primary voters were to choose Sen. Cruz as their nominee — somebody who actually wasn't born in the United States and only 18 months ago renounced his Canadian citizenship," Earnest said, his sense of schadenfreude almost palpable.
Cruz was born in Calgary but is an American citizen by birth thanks to his mother’s citizenship. Only natural-born Americans are eligible to be president.
As he has done before with other GOP rivals, like in October when he plead ignorance about Ben Carson’s Seventh-day Adventist faith, Trump not so subtly raised doubts about Cruz in an interview earlier this week.
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"Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” said Trump.
“It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head."
The billionaire said he’d “hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it, and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”
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The Texas lawmaker took to Twitter in response, posting a clip from Happy Days showing Fonzie jumping the shark.
My response to @realDonaldTrump calling into question my natural-born citizenship? https://t.co/gWfAHznlCY— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 5, 2016
Cruz was more serious at a campaign stop in Iowa.
"People will continue to make political noise about it, but as a legal matter it is quite straightforward and I would note that it has occurred many times in history,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, this isn’t Trump’s first foray into “birther” territory.
In 2011, when he was mulling a possible presidential bid, Trump questioned if Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was born in Hawaii as he claimed.
He even launched a public pursuit of Obama's birth certificate, announcing he sent private investigators to the Aloha State to see what they could find.
Obama eventually released the long-form version of his birth certificate in response to the uproar. Trump said he was proud of himself because he had “accomplished something nobody has been able to accomplish.”
This new accusation leaves what was once a “bromance” between Trump and Cruz in tatters. The pair, who teamed up at a Capitol Hill rally against the Iran nuclear deal last year and went out of their way not to criticize each other in the GOP presidential debates, have been engaged in an increasingly noisy feud over the last several weeks as Cruz has surged in the polls.
The pot may boil over for good when Republicans take the stage again next Thursday.