The tense relationship between Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who is seeking the GOP nomination this year, has been far from cordial, and now it’s seeping into the presidential race.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump has raised doubts about whether Cruz is eligible to become president because he was born in Canada. On Wednesday, McCain said Trump has raised a legitimate question.
“I think there is a question. I'm not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it's worth looking into,” McCain told a Phoenix television station. “I don't think it's illegitimate to look into it."
McCain, a foreign policy hawk and member of the GOP establishment wing, has tussled with Cruz, who has upset both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate with tactics that critics have called selfish.
He held a 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor in opposition to the Affordable Care Act and called leaders of his party “liars.”
McCain, in turn, has slammed Cruz and other Tea Party members for their firebrand tactics, once memorably denouncing them as "wacko birds."
In 2008, similar questions about McCain’s birth emerged because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, then a U.S. territory, to parents stationed at a military base.
In 1964, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater also faced questions because he was born in Arizona before it became a state.
The Constitution requires presidents to be “natural-born citizens” and children of U.S. citizens are automatically granted citizenship even if they are born abroad.
Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother was an American citizen.
Still, Trump, who is trailing Cruz in Iowa, has said in several interviews this week that he hopes the Texas senator’s birth does not hurt the party’s chances this fall should he become the nominee.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post.