Republican candidates itching for a turn at the spotlight redirected their blows from the absent Donald Trump to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during Thursday’s debate, and the attacks kept up Friday morning, with the Des Moines Register's front page declaring a "rough night for Cruz.”
And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was in the undercard debate Thursday, took his turn Friday as well, accusing Cruz of flip-flopping.
“When a person changes views time after time and is always moving with the political wind vane, when a person is a thermometer instead of a thermostat, that person’s not a leader,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said of Cruz on CNN’s “New Day.” “And no, you can’t trust them.”
Huckabee, who participated in the undercard debate, contended that Cruz changes his opinions based on geography and lacks conviction.
“[Cruz] wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal saying [trade] was the greatest thing since toothpaste,” Huckabee told CNN. “Then he came out when the political wind shifted and said he was against it.”
Rep. Steve King of Iowa, one of Cruz's most prominent supporters and one of the most socially conservative members of Congress, told CNN on Friday that the Register’s front page came as a surprise — but dismissed it as editorialized.
“I had predicted in some of the interviews before the debate that all guns would be pointed at Ted Cruz,” he told CNN on Friday. “It’s a game of political king-of-the-hill, and it was clear Ted Cruz is on top of the hill.”
Yet without Trump on stage, candidates piled on Cruz early and kept up their attacks, repeatedly jabbing him over a perceived inability to stick to an opinion.
Fox News showed a video clip of the Texas senator speaking about “compromise” for the 2013 immigration reform bill that failed in Congress. Moderators questioned whether that was more representative of his views on immigration than his harsher turn of late.
“This is the lie Ted’s campaign is built on,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in response to the clip. "The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign you've been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes."