But that's not because Cruz thinks Trump will be the Republican nominee.
"Let me be very clear: I don't believe Donald Trump is gonna be the nominee, I don't believe he's gonna be our president. And I actually think the men and women in this room have something powerful to say about it. One of the reasons I love the state of Iowa, because in Iowa, y'all take politics seriously," Cruz said at a town hall meeting Monday in Iowa.
"Well, he's gotta say that," Trump said later Monday, during an impromptu press conference in New York City. "I will be leading in every poll, and leading by actually very wide margins. So I think I will be (the nominee)."
Cruz is one of the only opponents Trump hasn't attacked during his candidacy. In September, they even joined forces at a rally
opposing the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill.
"It is a bit of a romance," Trump told CNN at the September rally. "I like him, he likes me. He's backed me 100% about illegal immigration. He was the one person that really -- and there were a couple of others -- but Ted Cruz was out there and he backed me very strongly."
The Texas senator has previously refused to criticize the real estate mogul, so perhaps Cruz is taking a "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" approach.
Cruz's comments come at a time when his candidacy is catching up to Trump in the polls in Iowa
, the first-in-the-nation caucus state. In a Quinnipiac University poll released last Tuesday, Trump remained first in Iowa with 25%, but Cruz edged Ben Carson out for second with 23% support.
Cruz said Trump has captured energy because voters are fed up with Washington, which he said was ultimately an advantage for his campaign.
"When others attack me I don't respond in kind," Cruz said. "My response is typically not only not to respond but a lot of times to heap praises on the other folks. Now scripture gives us some guidance to that and they say when you pay unkindness with kindness that it's like heaping coals on their heads."
And on Monday, Cruz heaped some praise on Trump: "Listen, I like Donald Trump."
"I'm immensely grateful to Donald Trump, because he's helped frame the central issue of this primary as, 'Who will stand up to Washington?' Well, if that's the central issue, the natural follow-up question is, OK, ' Who has stood up to Washington?' And who's stood up, not just to Democrats but to leaders in their own party, and that there is an enormous difference," Cruz said.
"If the central question of this primary is who will stand up to Washington and who has stood up to Washington, we win," Cruz added.