Republican front-runner Donald Trump is doubling down on his assertion that Sen. Ted Cruz’s Canadian birthplace could be a problem for Republicans.
In a pair of interviews on Wednesday, Trump expanded on remarks to the Washington Post that the fact that Cruz was born in Canada could be “very precarious” for Republicans if his citizenship were challenged.
“I want to beat him on his own merit. I don’t want to have a thing like this happen,” Trump told “Fox & Friends,” adding, “I will say, though, that the Democrats, if they bring a lawsuit on it, I mean, you have to get it solved.”
Trump, who repeatedly questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and took credit when the White House released Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011, told Fox he’d like to see Cruz “do something where maybe he goes in a pre-emptive fashion into court to try and get some kind of an order, because I would not like to see that happen.”
The flare up comes as Cruz is rising in the polls and is poised to finish first in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 1. The two candidates have had a bit of a non-aggression pact that has begun fraying, even as Trump insisted on Fox that the Texas senator had “been very nice to me. I've been very nice to him.”
But he added, “It’s a problem. I'd love to see him get it straightened out.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest couldn’t hide his amusement when a reporter asked whether Obama was enjoying the back and forth between the two candidates.
“I don't know if he does, but I sure do,” Earnest said. He noted it would be “quite ironic” that after the “drama” over Obama’s birth certificate, “Republican primary voters were to choose Senator Cruz as their nominee, somebody who actually wasn't born in the United States and only 18 months ago renounced his Canadian citizenship.”
Trump suggested in an MSNBC interview that “everybody’s talking about (Cruz) now that he’s doing better.”
“It’s a problem for him, and it’s a problem obviously for the Republicans,” Trump said. “Let’s assume he got a nomination and the Democrats bring suit, the suit takes two to three years to solve. So how do you run?”
Cruz for, his part, responded to Trump on Tuesday, tweeting a clip from the sitcom “Happy Days” in which leather-jacketed Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis – inspiring the “jump the shark” phrase that means the point at which something has become absurd. On the campaign trail in Iowa, Cruz told reporters on Wednesday that the matter was “settled law,” noting that previous candidates born outside the United States – including John McCain – had not had their candidacies challenged. He said his campaign would focus on “serious issues.”
Cruz was born in 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, where his parents were in the oil business. The family moved from Canada to Houston when he was small, and he contends he is a natural-born U.S. citizen, eligible for the presidency.
Although most legal scholars maintain that Cruz is in the clear, the fact-check group Politifact found the issue is not “100 percent settled” because the U.S. Supreme Court has not directly ruled on the citizenship provision.
If Trump was sowing doubt about Cruz, he stuck up for Obama – whom a Fox host on Tuesday suggested was faking the tears he’d shed that day as he talked about tightening gun laws.
“I actually think he was sincere,” Trump said on Fox. “I'll probably go down about five points in the polls by saying that, but I think he was sincere.”
But Trump said he disagrees with Obama’s approach: “I think he's incorrect about it. They're just taking chunks and chunks out of the Second Amendment.”