“Sen. Cruz has been consistent on immigration,” Meadows told reporters, explaining one of the many reasons he’s voting for him.
“What would have happened if there hadn’t been champions against amnesty” like Cruz to thwart the Gang of Eight bill? Meadows wondered out loud.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of those Senate “gang” members, has been Cruz’s most vocal foe as of late. He stepped up his attacks Saturday night, calling Cruz a liar regarding his waffling support of amnesty.
It wasn’t just immigration that drew sparks between the two senators. Ahead of the Greenville battle, Rubio’s campaign sent out several press releases condemning Cruz’s attacks on Rubio’s pro-life record. Cruz spoke at the Faith and Family Presidential Forum in Greenville on Friday, where he questioned Rubio’s sincerity in wanting to defund Planned Parenthood. The Florida senator, Cruz argued, did not adequately support his effort to halt funding to the pro-abortion organization last fall.
"We could have defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of those videos but too many Republicans in Washington, especially leadership, were afraid to stand and fight."
Several Rubio surrogates, including Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), pushed back against Cruz’s comments.
“I am bitterly disappointed Ted Cruz would try to intentionally mislead my fellow South Carolinians,” Gowdy said in a statement. “There is no one in Congress more unabashedly pro-life than Marco Rubio."
I asked Meadows to weigh in on the apparent bad blood between Cruz and Rubio. He diverted to the larger campaign issue.
“I don’t know that there’s bad blood,” Meadows said. “Really the question tonight has been one of the pro-life record. I think every candidate up there is pro-life. I think the fundamental question is: Are you going to be an advocate, or are you going to be a champion? And Sen. Cruz has a record for being a champion as it relates to defunding Planned Parenthood and really get rid of some of the horrific practices that we see. This is a battle right now to try to win the hearts, and souls and minds of voters and that compare and contrast is something that should be debated.
At least they’re talking about it, I noted. The Democratic debates haven’t even touched the topic.
“Exactly,” Meadows said, before emphasizing Cruz’s pro-life passion.
“I can tell you that knowing Sen. Cruz, when I call him on defunding Planned Parenthood, I got an immediate phone call back. We were working together in a bicameral way where we got the House and Senate working. Even some people who have endorsed other candidates have mentioned the fact that Sen. Cruz is willing to work with them on important issues that affect the average American.”
Both Cruz and Rubio, several media outlets agree, had strong performances last night. But, they have a lot of catching up to do to Donald Trump, who is way ahead in the Palmetto State polls. While the business mogul didn’t have the best night, he can still count on his supporters’ votes. Hours before the debate, some of his fans told me they would vote for him no matter what transpired on the stage last night.
South Carolina Republicans will head to the polls on Feb. 20.