Cruz attacks Sanders, Rubio in New Hampshire

Story highlights

  • Cruz critiqued the Vermont senator for missing a Senate vote on Syrian refugees
  • Cruz has largely shied away from attacking Sanders

Hollis, New Hampshire (CNN)Ted Cruz took his first substantive shot at Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate on Wednesday, the latest sign of Sanders' growing strength in the Democratic primary.

Speaking to reporters after returning from a trip to Washington for a vote, Cruz critiqued the Vermont senator for his absence.
"Sadly, the Democrats continue to put party loyalty above all else. I would note Bernie Sanders chose not to attend," Cruz said of the vote, where Democrats blocked an effort by Republicans to curb the flow of refugees into the U.S. from Iraq and Syria.
    Cruz has largely shied away from attacking Sanders, jokingly calling Clinton the "socialist" in the race rather than the senator who is a self-described democratic socialist.
    Cruz also offered a new argument in his attempt to paint GOP front-runner Donald Trump as an inauthentic conservative, claiming that he is inheriting the support of disenchanted Marco Rubio supporters.
    "Right now, the Washington establishment is abandoning Marco Rubio. They've made the assessment that Marco can't win this race, and the Washington establishment is rushing over to support Donald Trump," he said. "Let me encourage other members of the establishment: Keep supporting Donald Trump, because every time you do it, what it is doing is telling conservatives all over the country where you stand and who stands with you."
    As evidence, Cruz said his campaign had raised $700,000 since Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad dissed Cruz by calling for his defeat in the Hawkeye State.
    "Seven months ago, he said he was the establishment," Cruz said, pointing to Trump's donations to both Democrats, but also Republican establishment leaders like Mitch McConnell. "Well, that hasn't changed."