WASHINGTON – A rolling brawl between the two U.S. Republican presidential front-runners didn’t abate on Sunday as Donald Trump termed his closest competitor, Ted Cruz, “nasty” and the Texas senator stood his ground in criticizing the billionaire’s “New York values.”
“He’s a nasty guy,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.
“He’s a very — he’s got an edge that’s not good. You can’t make deals with people like that and it’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing for the country,” said Trump, who has led Republican opinion polls for months.
The spat between the pair, who earlier in the campaign called each other friends, has intensified since the Republican debate on Jan. 14, when the Texan assailed reality television star Trump’s “New York values” and policy positions including past support for abortion rights.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Cruz said the response to his comments was “certainly amusing, and it is amusing seeing the media elite in New York and D.C. run around with their hair on fire wondering what on Earth are New York values.”
“I’ll tell you and the rest of the country, people understand exactly what that is. In South Carolina, when I was there, the people there certainly understand it,” Cruz said.
Cruz said his motivation for attacking Trump’s values stemmed from the real estate magnate’s own statements, including those made 17 years ago in an interview with the late NBC journalist Tim Russert. In that 1999 spot, Trump ascribed his pro-choice views and support for gays serving in the military, in part, to having lived all his life in New York.
“My views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa,” Trump said at the time.
Trump responded on Sunday by saying Cruz has taken money from backers who are pro-gay marriage. He also derided the Texan, for a second day, on the recent disclosure of low- interest loans obtained from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. in 2012 that weren’t noted in campaign finance reports at the time.
“He’s a total hypocrite,” Trump said of Cruz on ABC. “He wants to look like Robin Hood, that he’s the one protecting the people from the banks, while he’s actually borrowing money, and personally guaranteeing it, and not disclosing it.”
A Real Clear Politics average of recent opinion polls shows Trump running marginally ahead of Cruz in Iowa but holding a bigger lead in New Hampshire, where Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is in second place. Those states will have the nation’s first nominating contests of 2016.