Trump, Cruz clash over White House eligibility in tense Republican debate
NORTH CHARLESTON – Reuters
AFP photoU.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and top challenger Ted Cruz clashed sharply on Jan. 14 over the Texas senator’s eligibility to run for the White House during a tense debate weeks before voters start to pick the party’s nominee.
Businessman and reality TV star Trump said Cruz’s path to the presidency was in question because he was born in Canada. The U.S. Constitution mandates that only “natural born” citizens can become president of the United States.
Cruz, who was born in Calgary, Alberta, to a U.S. citizen mother and a Cuban father, accused Trump of bringing up his birthplace simply because Cruz was leading some polls in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1 in the run up to the November general election.
Cruz said Trump, who led the movement questioning whether the Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama was really from the United States, had asked his lawyers to look into the issue of Cruz’s birth in September and concluded there were no issues.
“Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have,” Cruz said. “And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are dropping in Iowa, but the facts and the law here are really clear.”
A Google snap poll showed viewers believed Trump, who in the most recent debates was at times less engaged, won the night with 37.3 percent to Cruz’s 26.6 percent and Rubio’s 12.1 percent.
Until the Fox Business Channel debate in North Charleston, South Carolina, Trump and Cruz had been friendly because they have both been chasing conservatives of the Tea Party movement and did not want to anger them.
Trump said Democrats would sue if Cruz were on the Republican ticket, putting their party’s chances of winning at risk.
“There’s a big question mark on your head,” Trump told his rival, with whom he has had friendly relations over the past year on the campaign trail. “The Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit.”
He urged Cruz, who is a lawyer, to ask a court to put the question to rest.
“I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump,” Cruz retorted.
Trump, who has proven to be a master at finding a perceived weakness in an opponent, has made an increasing issue of Cruz’s Canadian birth. He admitted during the debate that he was doing so because of Cruz’s improving political prospects.
Cruz has steered clear of criticizing Trump during his rise to the top of the national polls, but that ended on Jan. 15.
In addition to fighting back over his presidential eligibility, Cruz accused Trump of not being a conservative because he was born in New York and still lives there.
“Everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage,” Cruz said.
Trump rebutted Cruz’s comments by referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He said New Yorkers came together to support each other after thousands were killed and cleaned up the site of the destroyed 110-story World Trade Center’s twin towers, enduring “the smell of death” for months.
“That was a very insulting statement that Ted made,” Trump said.