Billionaire GOP front runner Donald Trump has spent weeks raising questions about whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a natural-born citizen and eligible to be president.
But now Cruz is developing a new campaign talking point of his own — he’s accusing Trump of pretending to be a conservative. And Cruz intends to get as much mileage as possible out of Trump’s past support of Democratic issues and candidates.
Cruz went on the offensive yesterday in New Hampshire, attacking Trump for campaign contributions he’s made to Democrats — including $50,000 he gave in 2010 to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff.
Trump has also been criticized for donating to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation. But the bombastic billionaire has explained away the donations as necessary to protect and advance his business interests.
Cruz also laughed off Trump’s attempts to compare himself to Ronald Reagan, saying he was “pretty sure” Reagan never supported or made large donations to Democrats. Of course, Cruz is wrong about that — as a young man Reagan was a registered Democrat.
Cruz and other candidates have also attacked Trump’s Christian credentials, and that is expected to continue after Trump’s awkward recitation of Bible scripture at the evangelical Liberty University this week.
But the increasing attacks on Trump, who candidates were afraid to tangle with earlier in the campaign, shows one thing. They know he’s the man to beat, and they’re not laughing about Trump’s candidacy any more.
Both Cruz and Trump were campaigning Monday in New Hampshire, which holds the second contest in the country’s critical primary season.
The rivalry between Cruz and Trump has intensified in recent days, with Trump going on the offensive over Cruz’s eligibility to be on the ballot given his Canadian birth and for Cruz’s failure to disclose loans received from Citibank and Goldman Sachs for his 2012 Senate race.
Trump on Sunday called Cruz a “nasty guy” whom no one likes. Cruz tried to turn the insult into a joke Monday, posting a message on Twitter saying Americans feel “nasty” toward the “Washington Cartel.” He also posted a link to the video of Janet Jackson’s hit song “Nasty.”
I gotta say, the American people are feeling pretty “nasty”towards the Washington Cartel. https://t.co/ZBMVcYlwdi
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 18, 2016
“Donald seems to be a little rattled,” Cruz told reporters before a town hall in Washington, New Hampshire. “For whatever reason he is very, very dismayed. I guess as conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign, as his poll numbers continue to go down, he’s a little testier.”
Polls show Cruz and Trump locked in a tight race in Iowa, but Trump is polling considerably better in New Hampshire. Cruz embarked on a five-day swing through the Granite State this week as his numbers began to show new strength.
Trump, campaigning in New Hampshire late Monday, took to Twitter on Monday to blast Cruz, saying:
I don’t think Ted Cruz can even run for President until he can assure Republican voters that being born in Canada is not a problem. Doubt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2016
The Associated Press contributed to this article