The seething fight between billionaire Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, his nearest rival for the GOP presidential nomination, boiled over this weekend with the two denouncing one another as hypocrites and phony conservatives. Their unseemly political battle raised questions about whether either man has the temperament to be commander in chief.
“Look, the truth is, he's a nasty guy,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped earlier this weekend on ABC’s This Week. “He was so nice to me. I mean, I knew it. I was watching. I kept saying, ‘Come on Ted. Let's go, ok.’ But he's a nasty guy.”
“Nobody likes him,” said the GOP Republican frontrunner, who has made plenty of political enemies as well. “Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He's a very…he's got an edge that's not good. You can't make deals with people like that and it's not a good thing. It's not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.”
With two weeks to go before the caucuses Cruz, holds a slender lead over Trump in some Iowa polls. He seemed to gloat over Trump’s discomfort during an appearance on Fox News Sunday when he portrayed Trump as a closet supporter of abortion, gay rights and other liberal “New York values” that he says are out of step with Iowa and the rest of the country.
On Saturday, Cruz told reporters following an event in Fort Mills, S.C., “Donald’s record does not match what he says as a candidate. It seems Donald has a lot of nervous energy. For whatever reasons, Donald doesn’t react well when he’s going down in the polls,” according to The Washington Post.
The bitter exchanges seem less like the typical heated rhetoric ahead of an important political event like the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, and more like the hissing of two dangerous Cobras facing off for primacy.
For months, Trump and Cruz struck an odd harmonious relationship during debates and joint appearances. They avoided taking pot shots at one another, even while they were competing for the same group of conservative and Evangelical Christian voters. Cruz repeatedly chided the media for trying to provoke him into attacking Trump, while he privately belittled Trump to some of his supporters and conceded he was biding his time until the Trump began to falter.
Trump did a 180 when Cruz began to surge ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and others. Cruz has pointed to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that has been beating Trump in a hypothetical two-man race, although Trump leads Cruz substantially when pitted against the entire field.
Then Trump played the birther card stoke a renewing a controversy over whether the Canadian-born Cruz whose mother is a U.S. citizen was a “natural born citizen” eligible to serve as president under the Constitution. Trump also pounced on a New York Times report late last week that Cruz had failed to report to the Federal Election Commission two personal loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank totaling nearly $1 million that he used to help finance his long-shot 2012 Senate campaign. Trump subsequently portrayed Cruz as a hypocrite who ran against Wall Street as a Tea Party candidate while becoming beholden to big bankers.
Any pretense at civility vaporized during last Thursday night’s sixth GOP presidential debate, when Cruz berated Trump for raising the “birther issue” only after he had begun to slip in the polls. Cruz also accused Trump of campaigning under the false colors of a conservative when he has long espoused liberal views on abortion, gay marriage and other “New York values.”
Cruz’s campaign followed by tweeting and emailing a video of Trump appearing on Meet the Press from 1999. In that interview, the Trump described himself as against abortion personally but “very pro-choice” and conceded that he viewed gay rights far more positively than others might around the country. Cruz claims it was Trump who first coined the phrase “New York values” in explaining his worldview.
The attacks and counter-attacks raged on yesterday on national television.