Elections

Donald Trump’s ‘birther’ attacks on Ted Cruz gain some traction

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, during a campaign stop at Granite State Indoor Range in Hudson, N.H.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, during a campaign stop at Granite State Indoor Range in Hudson, N.H. AP

Donald Trump’s presidential rallies now feature the blaring sounds of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” a not-so-subtle dig at his closest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada.

The New York billionaire hasn’t let up on his questioning of Cruz’s standing under the Constitution that only “natural born” U.S. citizens are eligible to be president, and there are signs that his effort is paying off.

In Iowa, Trump now is slightly ahead of Cruz, who was leading in the Hawkeye State and has been a strong second to Trump in national polls. Trump edges Cruz by 28 percent to 26 percent in Iowa, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.

The senator could be in further trouble once more voters in Iowa understand his background: Asked about Cruz’s birthplace, the poll found that “36 percent of Cruz voters aren’t aware yet that he wasn’t born in the United States, and 24 percent of Cruz voters say someone born outside the country shouldn’t be allowed to be president.”

“In a race where only 2 points separate Cruz and Trump, the birther issue could really make a difference in the final stretch,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning polling company in Durham, N.C. “Republican voters generally don’t think someone born outside the country should be president, and that’s why Trump is milking it for all it’s worth.”

The Iowa GOP Caucus is Feb. 1, along with the Democrats’, and the Public Policy Polling survey queried 530 likely Republican caucus-goers Jan. 8-10. Trump began speaking out last week about Cruz’s eligibility to be president.

Cruz maintains that the law is “settled” because his mother, Eleanor Cruz, was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth in 1970 in Calgary and even released her birth certificate.

The 60-second "Invasion" ad shows people in business attire crossing the border. Texas senator Ted Cruz says it illustrates the economic threat those entering the U.S. illegally represent.

He seemed to discount the possibility that she was a dual citizen – Canadian as well as U.S. – Sunday on CNN, despite her name appearing on a 1974 Canadian voter roll alongside that of her husband, Rafael Cruz, who has said he became a Canadian citizen during the eight years the couple was in the country. Cruz said, “She’s been an American citizen all 81 years of her life. She’s never been a citizen of any other place.”

Tuesday on Fox News, Trump said, “You have a cloud over Ted’s head. I don’t know how you solve it without going to court.” Trump said a declaratory judgment would pre-empt a suit that he said Democrats would file against the Republican Party if Cruz were the nominee.

Trump has questioned the crowd at rallies in the past few days over whether Cruz is eligible – they shout, “No!” Trump himself says, “I don’t know.”

She’s been an American citizen all 81 years of her life. She’s never been a citizen of any other place.

Sen. Ted Cruz, to CNN, on his mother’s citizenship

He tweeted an image of the Public Policy Polling results late Tuesday, saying “Thank you!”

The Texas senator isn’t getting much support from his Senate colleagues, either. He has famously clashed in the past with several senators who now are holding back.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., led the bipartisan Senate resolution effort in 2008 declaring Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. – who was born in the Panama Canal Zone – a natural born citizen. In a bit of payback, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whom Cruz famously called a liar last summer, said the Senate would not do the same for Cruz.

“I just don’t think the Senate ought to get into the middle of this,” McConnell said Sunday on ABC. “These guys are all slugging it out in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll have a nominee, hopefully, by sometime in the spring.”

Cruz did get some measured support from his fellow Texas senator, Sen. John Cornyn, who said Tuesday, “I’ve said that I intend to stay out of the presidential primary, and that continues to be the case, but I don’t have any doubt that Sen. Cruz is qualified to run for president and to serve if elected.”

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