How do you run against the Democrat, whoever it may be, and you have this hanging over your head? – Donald Trump on the question of Ted Cruz’s presidential eligibility.
From the moment Ted Cruz climbed to the top of the Iowa polls, you knew it was only a matter of time before Donald Trump attacked. The billionaire has been wildly successful at hitting his opponents where it hurts, and there was little reason to think Cruz would get a pass. Trump’s first blow went errant, however, drawing jeers from conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh. When Trump said Cruz lacked the right “temperament” for the presidency – “kind of a maniac” – some of his supporters accused him of using Democrat tactics. This backlash may have had an effect; at the next Republican debate, Trump backed off his earlier remarks.
But while Trump may have decided that attacking Cruz’s wild Senate reputation was a dead end, he certainly wasn’t going to give him an easy path to victory in Iowa. On several occasions, Trump questioned Cruz’s religious background, saying, “Not too many evangelicals are coming out of Cuba.” For that argument to have any weight, however, voters would have to see fraud in Cruz’s religious convictions. Whether you love Cruz or hate him, it’s nearly impossible to see his faith as anything but sincere.
Now Trump, not accustomed to failure, is bringing out the heavy artillery. Namely, the question of whether the Canadian-born Cruz is even eligible to be president. And this one may be a little more difficult for Cruz to deflect.
“The Constitution and the laws of the United States are straightforward,” Cruz said in a CNN interview. “The very first Congress defined the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad as a natural-born citizen.”
Cruz has considerable legal support for that position, but he’s overstating the case when he calls it “straightforward.” The definition is not explicitly outlined in the Constitution, and it’s tough to forget the legions of “birthers” who insisted that this very issue made President Obama illegitimate. There was never any doubt that Obama’s mother was an American citizen, so why was his place of birth an issue if the laws in this area are clear?
The problem, as Trump has masterfully pointed out, is not really Ted Cruz’s actual eligibility. The problem is that it leaves Hillary Clinton with a wide opening she can use to cast doubts in a general election. And since there is ample evidence to show that Clinton was the first of Obama’s enemies to paint him as a foreign Muslim, there’s no cause to think she’ll exercise restraint this time around.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question,” Trump said. “Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?”
With this, his third jab at the Texas senator, Trump connected. And it shows us that, with the first primaries coming up fast, this race is about to get vicious.