CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz ramped up his attacks against GOP rival Donald Trump on Tuesday, accusing the billionaire businessman of having "New York values" and questioning his foreign policy credentials.
It was the latest round in an escalating rivalry between the two outsider candidates, who are locked in a virtual tie in polls in the early-voting state of Iowa. Cruz's sharper rhetoric shows that the detente between the two has ended as they fight to win over voters less than a month before the state's kick-off caucuses.
The attacks began early in the day as Cruz hit back against Trump's questions about his eligibility to run because he was born in Canada. Cruz, who insists that the issue of his qualification has long been settled, responded by suggesting that Trump is the favored candidate of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's supporters.
"It's more than a little strange to see Donald Trump is relying on as authoritative a liberal left-wing judicial activist Harvard law professor who is a huge Hillary supporter," said Cruz in Hudson, New Hampshire, referring to his former law school professor Laurence Tribe, who has said the issue remains debated.
"It starts to make you think, gosh, why are Hillary's strongest supporters backing Donald Trump? The past couple of elections we saw the Democrats thrilled that they got the nominee they wanted to run against in the general election," Cruz said. "The Hillary folks are very eager to support Donald Trump."
Speaking to radio host Howie Carr, Cruz continued the attacks, subtlety raising questions about Trump's values. "Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values," Cruz said, adding that "The Donald seems to be a little bit rattled" over his position in the polls.
The final shot came when radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Cruz about the nuclear triad. During the last GOP debate, Trump had appeared stumped by a question on the topic.
"Well, I do think the most important determination that the voters are making is who is prepared to be commander in chief, who has the knowledge, who has the experience, who has the judgment and clarity of vision and strength and resolve to keep this country safe. And it is certainly relevant to voters. Does a potential commander in chief know what the nuclear triad is, much less is he or she prepared and able to strengthen it and keep this country safe?" he said.
"And it's certainly relevant, does a commander in chief understand who our enemy is, radical Islamic terrorism, understand how to defeat it not just based on what's said on Sunday shows on TV, but actually understanding the nature of the threat and what is required to defeat it?" he asked, making a veiled reference to a comment Trump had made early on about learning about foreign policy from cable shows.
Trump, meanwhile, hit back at a rally in Cedar Falls on Tuesday night, again raising questions about Cruz's ability to run.
"He's got a problem," Trump told an audience packed into a gym of the University of Northern Iowa, repeating his case that the issue will hang over Cruz's head if he wins the nomination. "I'm doing it for the party, and I'm doing it for the Ted," Trump later said.
He also accused Cruz of being in the pocket of his donors and hit him on his opposition to ethanol subsidies, an issue in corn-producing Iowa.
"By the way, Ted is totally against ethanol, please remember that. And I'm for ethanol," he said. "I think it's fantastic."
Trump's event hit many of his usual points, but it took an unusual turn when he quoted the lyrics to an Al Wilson song called "The Snake" as an allegory to describe the U.S. being too trusting by taking in Syrian refugees who may want to do the country harm.
In the song, a "tender-hearted woman" nurses a "poor half-frozen snake" back to health — only to be bitten.
"'I saved you,' cried that woman. 'And you've bit me even, why? You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die.'"
"'Oh shut up, silly woman,' said the reptile with a grin. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.'"
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Hudson, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.