It’s been a point of pride for Donald Trump to say that in his presidential campaign, he’s been a counter-puncher. He doesn’t hit anybody, he says, until they take a swing at him first. You can quibble about just how faithful to that philosophy Trump has really been, but for the most part he has reserved his most vitriolic comments for opponents who have gone after him directly.
Back in November, Trump said that he thought eventually even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would have to come after him.
“I think he’s going to have to hit me,” Trump said at a rally in Georgia. “It’s going to be a sad day, but we will hit back—I promise.”
However, over the past few weeks Cruz, unlike his other competitors, has forced Trump to go on the offensive in a way that the cranky billionaire hasn’t before. The Texas senator has been gaining on Trump in national polls – though he is still trailing by a significant margin – and is leading him in some Iowa polls. A Cruz victory in the Iowa caucus, the first vote of the primary, would seriously dim the aura of inevitability that Trump has been cultivating since last summer.
Leading into last Thursday’s republican debate, Cruz has definitely criticized Trump in public, but not to the degree some of the other targets of the billionaire’s ire had done. However, Trump was plainly feeling the heat. The tightening poll numbers pushed him into repeated questions about Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency because of his Canadian birth.
The two tangled about the birther issue and about Cruz’s disdain for New York City in the debate, but it was in the days that followed that Trump took to his preferred platform for attack – Twitter – and really began going after Cruz in earnest.
When The New York Times late Friday reported that Cruz had funded one of his campaigns with the assistance of a large loan from Goldman Sachs – the New York investment bank that employs his wife, Heidi Cruz – and had failed to disclose it on a Federal Election Commission form, Trump pounced:
“Greatly dishonest of @tedcruz to file a financial disclosure form & not list his lending banks- then pretend he is going to clean up Wall St.”
“When will @tedcruz give all the New York based campaign contributions back to the special interests that control him[?]”
The Cruz campaign later revealed that there was a second loan that it had not disclosed and – no surprise – Trump could hardly wait to Tweet about that, too. “Ted Cruz purposely, and illegally, did not list on his personal disclosure form personally guaranteed loans from banks. They own him!”
Tellingly, Trump didn’t stick to the information available in recent media reports. Uncharacteristically, he did some research and went after Cruz for something that happened almost a year ago – a meeting he had with potential donors who are gay.
“Ted is the ultimate hypocrite. Says one thing for money, does another for votes,” he tweeted.
And, “If Ted Cruz is so opposed to gay marriage, why did he accept money from people who espouse gay marriage?”
For his part, Cruz seemed to revel in the fact that Trump has been forced to respond to him, and insisted it was related to their relative standing in the polls.
“I imagine it pulled him out of bed this morning and sent him tweeting and tweeting and tweeting,” he said. “I think in terms of a commander in chief, we ought to have someone who isn't springing out of bed to tweet in a frantic response to the latest polls.”