In the aftermath of a scrappy South Carolina debate, the rivalry between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz intensified Friday as the New York billionaire expanded his rhetorical assault on the Texas senator.
Campaigning in Iowa, Trump told CNN it was “a very serious thing” that Cruz failed to disclose up to $1 million in loans from Goldman Sachs in the public finance reports of his 2012 Senate campaign.
“That’s a pretty big mistake to make,” Trump said, rejecting Cruz’s statement that a New York Times report this week on his Goldman Sachs and Citibank loans had blown a paperwork error out of proportion.
With just over two weeks before the Iowa caucuses kick off the GOP nominating contest, conflict between Trump and Cruz is dominating the campaign. Trump has sustained a strong lead in national polls, but Cruz is now even or leading in Iowa, causing a rupture in their nonaggression pact.
“I guess the bromance is over,” Trump told reporters Thursday in North Charleston, S.C., where the two had just clashed in the debate.
On Friday, Trump went on offense at the crack of dawn at Java Joe’s, a Des Moines coffeehouse, where he told anchors of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Cruz was “very strident.”
“A lot of people aren’t going to like that,” said Trump, whose rhetoric is also seen by many as strident.
Trump said Cruz “lied” during the debate about his standing in the polls. And he pressed his case that Cruz could be disqualified from the presidency because he was born in Canada, albeit to an American mother.
Trump mentioned newly filed litigation on the matter. Houston attorney Newton B. Schwartz Sr. is seeking a Texas court ruling on whether Cruz meets the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born” citizen.
Cruz, who tried to stay focused Friday on his appeals to conservatives as he campaigned in South Carolina, brushed off Trump’s remarks about his Canadian birth. “Donald knows it’s a nonissue,” Cruz said on Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show.
Cruz also faced fallout Friday from his accusation during the debate that Trump embodies “New York values,” which the Texan described as “socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage” and focused on money and the media.
Trump reprised his debate comeback Friday, saying it was disgraceful to attack the state where emergency workers had shown heroism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.
“Think about the firemen that were running up the stairs,” he said. “They came in from Queens, and they’re coming through from the tunnel, and they’re going 100 miles per hour … and they go up to try and save people.”
Cruz’s attack sparked outrage in New York, where the front page of the Daily News illustrated the Statue of Liberty with a single finger artfully extended alongside the headline: “DROP DEAD, TED.”
On Friday, Cruz mocked New York politicians who demanded an apology, saying they’ve abandoned constituents who oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and gun rights. On the Hannity show, Cruz singled out New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, recalling the 2014 police officer funeral where hundreds of officers turned their backs on him in anger over his remarks on protests over police shootings.
“I especially apologize to the cops and the firefighters and the heroes of 9/11 who had no choice but to stand and turn their backs on Mayor De Blasio,” Cruz said, “because over and over again he sides with the looters and the criminals instead of the brave men and women in blue.”