Everyone was wondering when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz would end the mutual adoration and begin going after each other as the Iowa caucus draws closer. The two have been mostly complimentary of each other, however, they’re now fighting over the top spot in Iowa and Trump decided to merely begin asking questions about whether Ted Cruz is eligible, under the constitution, to hold the presidency.
Report from CBS News:
CBS News rode with Cruz on Day Four of a six-day bus tour of Iowa, and asked about his birth in Canada and Donald Trump’s legal advice.
“This issue is a non-issue,” Cruz told CBS News. “The law is quite clear. The child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural born citizen.”
Cruz has perceived this as an attack, although Trump says he’s trying to help him.
“The funny thing about politics, it’s fairly unusual for your opponents who are running for the same position to be actually trying to help you,” Cruz countered.
Cruz has climbed to the top of the Iowa polls by reaching out to evangelicals and social conservatives. In 2012, 57 percent of Republican caucus-goers described themselves as evangelicals, and 47 percent said they were “very conservative.”
Aside from the citizenship question, Trump is also opening a line of attack accusing Ted Cruz of supporting amnesty. This from Politico:
Donald Trump opened a new front in his incipient war on Ted Cruz late on Wednesday, accusing the Texas senator of supporting “amnesty” for immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
“Ted was in favor of amnesty,” Trump told host Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“Him and Marco Rubio have been fighting about who’s weaker,” he continued after Blitzer noted Cruz’s claim that he was stronger than the real-estate mogul on immigration issues.
Trump went on to knock Cruz for “taking my idea for the wall,” repeating a complaint he has aired every day this week.
“I’m glad he’s taking my idea. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Trump went on. “These people who are politicians don’t know how to build walls. They don’t know how to build anything.”
The truth over whether Cruz is constitutionally eligible or whether he supported amnesty will be lost in the discussion for the most part. The victory for Trump is that he has the media talking about these topics ahead of what may be a very tight caucus on the GOP side. By most legal accounts that I’ve read, and here’s a good one from Harvard Law Review, Cruz is eligible. However, that doesn’t stop the question of percolating in the minds of Iowa voters.
I think the goal here was to toss out several items which were significant enough to force Cruz into a defensive position. So far, he’s played it pretty well by humorously deflecting back at Trump. However, the next Republican debate is happening on January 14 and the question is whether the Trump/Cruz battle will play out on national television instead of back and forth in the press.
I’m envisioning that Trump will begin lumping Cruz and Rubio together as tools of the current political system. He’ll charge them with both being in the Senate and getting nothing done or, at minimum, not being strong enough to drive the conversation and make deals. It’s going to be an interesting January.