After closed-door criticism, Cruz tries to win Trump back

December 11, 2015
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a 2nd Amendment Coalition announcement at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, December 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a 2nd Amendment Coalition announcement at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has so far shied away from bashing his fellow candidates in the run-up to the November 2016 election, broke his silence and criticized leading candidate Donald Trump behind closed doors – much to the real estate mogul’s delight on Friday.

Cruz, a Texas Senator, told a group of about 70 people at a private fundraiser on Wednesday that Trump faced a “challenging question” of “judgment” on whether he was fit to be commander-in-chief, according to an audio recording provided to the New York Times by one attendee.

“Who am I comfortable having their finger on the button? Now that’s a question of strength, but it’s also a question of judgment,” Cruz said, according to the audio. “And I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them.”

Trump took to Twitter to respond on Friday morning, saying it looked like Cruz was “getting ready to attack.”

“.@tedcruz should not make statements behind closed doors to his bosses, he should bring them out into the open – more fun that way!” Trump continued.

Later on Friday, after many media outlets picked up Cruz’s comments, the Texas Senator refused to back down from his publicly friendly stance toward Trump.

“The Establishment’s only hope: Trump & me in a cage match,” he said in a message on Twitter. “Sorry to disappoint — @realDonaldTrump is terrific. #DealWithIt”

As the Republican Party has grappled with how to handle an anti-establishment candidate like Trump, Cruz has separated himself from others by publicly positioning himself closely to the frontrunner.

When Trump controversially announced a plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States this week, Cruz praised the way the proposal focused on national security while other Republicans lashed out against it.

Cruz nodded toward his strategy to his supporters on Wednesday, telling them his approach has been to “bear hug” both Trump and fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson, and “smother them with love.” From that position, he told them, he hopes to gain the “lion’s share” of Trump’s supporters should he fall.

Trump’s Twitter response went on to indicate his willingness to counterattack Cruz if he lashes out, saying: “I am leading by so much he must” attack, Trump tweeted. “I hope so, he will fall like all others. Will be easy!”

That might, however, be exactly what the Texas Senator wants.

At the private meeting, after naming entities that have criticized him in the past – including President Barack Obama, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Wall Street Journal – Cruz told his supporters: “My response to all of that was, ‘Thank you for the endorsement.’”

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