During his victory speech in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz made a point of repeatedly praising his wife, who stood on stage beside the Texas senator. It was a not-so-subtle response to Trump, who has come under fire for retweeting an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz last month.
"I may be biased, but isn't she going to be an amazing first lady," Ted Cruz said after he called the state primary results a "turning point" in the race against Trump, who still leads in the national race for pledge delegates.
In his remarks, Ted Cruz touted his wife's upbringing as a child of missionaries and her successful career in the financial sector while the crowd chanted "Heidi! Heidi! Heidi!"
"Every day she's teaching our daughters Caroline and Catherine that strong women can accomplish anything in the United States of America," Cruz said.
Ted Cruz's victory over Trump follows a tumultuous period in the campaign that dragged both candidates' wives into the debate. The feud began before last month's caucus in Utah, when an anti-Trump super PAC unaffiliated with Cruz's campaign posted a nude photo of Trump's wife
, Melania, which she had taken for GQ Magazine before her marriage while she was a model.
"Meet Melania Trump, your new first lady," read text printed on the photo. "Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday."
Trump responded by posting a cryptic tweet
warning that Cruz should "be careful" and that he would "spill the beans on your wife." He later posted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz juxtaposed with a picture of Melania. "No need to 'spill the beans,'" it read. "A picture is worth a thousand words."
"It's not easy to tick me off. I don't get angry often," Cruz said in March in response
during a campaign stop in Wisconsin. "But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that'll do it every time. Donald, you are a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone."
The episode kicked off a series of events that could hurt Trump's standing among women.
A week before the Wisconsin primary, Trump's campaign manager was charged in Florida with simple battery
for grabbing a female reporter who was trying to ask Trump a question after a news conference.
A few days later, in an interview with MSNBC, Trump stumbled over a question about his position on abortion, saying women who undergo the procedure should be "punished" if abortion is outlawed. After a barrage of criticism from his campaign rivals as well as groups that both support and oppose abortion rights, Trump struggled to articulate his beliefs in a series of confusing statements that only seemed to deepen the problem.
Meanwhile, a CNN/ORC poll
conducted in March--before Trump made his abortion remarks--found that 73% of female voters hold a negative view of Trump.
Perhaps sensing a problem, Melania Trump joined her husband at an event in Milwaukee Monday night
and delivered her longest speech yet of the campaign.
Cruz has moved to seize on Trump's missteps, aiming to portray himself as a Republican champion for women. On Monday, he held a "Women for Cruz" even in Wisconsin.