early and often

The Trump-Cruz Breakup Gets Nasty

How did it come to this?! (Oh right, the birther thing.) Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Through the last few months of 2015, the bond between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz appeared to be unbreakable. Even as Trump called Cruz names, made uncomfortable comments about various ethnic groups, and complained about Cruz’s parents, the senator stood by his man, in the hope that he might snatch up his supporters, or at least be his running mate. Over the holidays it became obvious that their relationship had run its course, but Cruz only came to that sad realization during last week’s debate, when he was forced to clap as Trump expertly rebutted his “New York values” jab with a 9/11 reference. Here’s a replay:

Now, after a few days of soul searching and passive-aggressive sniping, the Trump-Cruz bromance is officially over. Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Trump unloaded on Cruz, saying, “He’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.”

On Monday morning, Cruz tried his usual coping method:

But this time, confusing pop-culture references and obliquely criticizing Trump in conversations with journalists wouldn’t do the trick. So at an event in Whitefield, New Hampshire, on Monday night, Cruz shifted gears, directly attacking Trump in a speech to voters. Cruz went after one of the central tenets of the businessman’s campaign: that no one has a more extreme position on immigration. If that’s so, Cruz wondered, why didn’t Trump stand up against the bipartisan immigration bill that passed in the Senate in 2013?

We were on the verge of losing this fight, and 12 million people here illegally would be granted amnesty. And yet when that fight was being fought, Donald was nowhere to be found,” said Cruz. “If you didn’t stand up and fight amnesty when the stakes were live or die, when the stakes were, ‘Do we lose this permanently or do we win?’ then I would suggest as voters you have reason to doubt the credibility of the promises of a political candidate who discovered the issue after he announces for president.”

Since he wasn’t in politics at the time, it might have been weird for Trump to get involved in the immigration fight, but Cruz noted that he also leaned left on issues closer to his own industry. “You should ask, ‘Where did you stand on the TARP big bank bailout? Did you oppose it or support it?’ Where did you stand on Obama’s massive stimulus plan? Did you oppose it or support it?” he said. “On both of those I opposed it. On both of those, Mr. Trump supported it.”

Then in a reference to Trump’s unsuccessful fight to take an Atlantic City widow’s home to build a casino, Cruz added, “Donald Trump has said he thinks eminent domain is fantastic, and he supports using government power to seize private people’s homes to give them to giant corporations to hypothetically build a casino.”

At another stop in Washington, New Hampshire, Cruz hit Trump with one of the worst insults you can hurl at a GOP candidate: calling him un-Reagan-like. While Trump has claimed that the 40th president’s views shifted over time, too, Cruz said, “Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big-government policies, supporting things like the TARP big bank bailout, supporting things like expanding Obamacare to turn it into socialized medicine.” He also listed a number of Democrats Trump has given money to, including Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, Anthony Weiner, and Rahm Emanuel.

Despite the strategy shift, Cruz said he wouldn’t resort to “insults” like Trump — though “policy differences are fair game.” So far, Trump’s responses have been rather weak and repetitive:

Either Cruz is getting to him, or Trump’s working on a retort so harsh that Cruz will wish he weren’t eligible to run for president.

The Trump-Cruz Breakup Gets Nasty