Donald Trump hinted Wednesday that his intensifying feud with rival Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz may spill over Thursday into the next Republican debate.
“I’m sure we’ll get into it tomorrow night,” Trump told a crowd of 11,000 supporters in Pensacola, Florida, as he brought up his war of words with the Texas senator, which has escalated in recent days.
Trump and Cruz had consistently embraced each other throughout the campaign and avoided attacking one another – but all of that changed when Trump last week first suggested in an interview that Cruz’s Canadian birth might make him ineligible to be president, or at least a liability to the Republican Party should he become the nominee.
After days of circling the pot, Cruz responded directly on Wednesday to Trump’s questions about his natural born citizenship status, arguing that Trump only raised those concerns after falling behind the Texas senator in Iowa polls.
“You know it’s interesting, this issue did not seem to concern Donald until a little over a week ago when suddenly he was trailing in the polls in Iowa,” Cruz told reporters in South Carolina on Wednesday.
Cruz in recent days has insisted that his birthplace does not preclude him from meeting the constitutional requirement of being a “natural-born citizen” in order to be president.
Cruz was born in Canada, but was automatically granted American citizenship by birth because his mother was an American citizen – which most legal scholars contend meets the “natural-born citizen” requirement. The question has never been tested in court.
Cruz said it’s obvious his candidacy is making Trump nervous.
“And I understand, Mr. Trump and other candidates in the race being disturbed that candidates are coming together and when they’re disturbed they try to raise whatever attacks that can,” Cruz said.
Trump has reiterated his concerns that if Republicans were to nominate Cruz he would face legal scrutiny in interviews and rallies this week.
“Supposing he runs and everybody ‘s banking on him and then the courts rule he can’t run. What do you do?” Trump asked. “Concede the election to Hillary or crazy Bernie?”
On Tuesday, Cruz sought to undermine Trump among GOP voters by saying that Trump embodies “New York values” that at odds with conservative ones.
“He’s been getting a little testy,” Trump noted of Cruz at his Wednesday night rally.
A poll out this week from the Des Moines Register showed Cruz with a 3 point lead over Trump, the latest in a series that shows Trump’s once dominant lead slipping.