Ted Cruz's eligibility to run questioned by more GOP candidates

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at Prime Time Restaurant in Guthrie Center, Iowa January 4, 2016. The stop is a part of Cruz' six-day bus tour through Iowa.

REUTERS

Last Updated Jan 14, 2016 2:29 PM EST

Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are jumping on the Donald Trump bandwagon with questions about Canadian-born Ted Cruz's eligibility for the presidency.

Huckabee, who has stayed out of the "natural-born" citizenship fight thus far, raised his concerns during a closed-door meeting with South Carolina pastors earlier this week.

"When it first surfaced, I didn't think it did [pose a problem]," the former Arkansas governor told supporters, according to the Washington Post. "But after now reading a number of very thoughtful pieces by constitutional experts, yeah, I think it should give everybody a little concern. It's an issue that's got to be dealt with. There was one article from Laurence Tribe, and there was another from a professor who wrote in The Washington Post, and it was very compelling argument. It was not a political argument. This person gave very serious reasons as to why this was a serious question."

Tribe is a liberal constitutional law scholar at Harvard who also taught Cruz when he was a student there (he aced the course, though the two predictably clashed). And this week, Tribe penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe in which he suggested that the kind of jurist Cruz would appoint to the Supreme Court -- a narrow originalist -- would no doubt reject Cruz's candidacy. And Tribe noted that his own kind of justice -- a "living constitutionalist" who believes that the meaning evolves to meet the needs of the time -- would deem Cruz's candidacy legal.

While Tribe thinks that "no real court is likely to keep Cruz off the ballot," he called Cruz a "fair-weather originalist, abandoning that method's narrow constraints when it suits his ambition."

In the Washington Post this week, Mary Brigid McManamon, a law professor at Widener University, argued that those eligible to run for president, "natural born Citizen[s]," must be born in the the United States and that only a Constitutional amendment would make it possible for Cruz to run.

And in Des Moines Wednesday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in the last election cycle, accused Cruz of misleading voters by stating that the issue is "settled law."

"Look, I have read a lot about this, and here is what I would say: The statement of Sen. Cruz that this is settled law is inaccurate. It is not settled law," Santorum said, according to the Des Moines Register. "The Supreme Court has not ruled on it. This is an area for the Supreme Court to rule."

Santorum then added, "You know me, I am not a big Supreme Court lover, but on this type of issue, this is a clear interpretation that the Supreme Court is, in fact, the body that would weigh in and make this decision."

Huckabee and Santorum join the slew of other politicians who have already questioned the Texas senator's legal ability to run for the White House.

In an interview with Fox News last week, Carly Fiorina called it "odd" that Cruz had not renounced his Canadian citizenship until 2014 "when it became clear he was running for president." The former tech executive also pointed to "legal scholars and others who think this is, perhaps, a legitimate issue."

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told Fox News Radio last week that Cruz was, without a doubt, qualified to be "prime minister of Canada," but suggested that the same couldn't be said of his rival's ability to run for U.S. president.

"We live in a really litigious world and it is a concern that people will sue him over not being born in this country," Paul said.

Even Arizona Sen. John McCain -- who also faced questions of his citizenship as the 2008 GOP nominee because of his birth on a U.S. military base Panama -- chimed in that Cruz's citizenship is a concern "worth looking into."

And of course, there's Donald Trump, who gave the issue new life. The media-savvy business mogul has harped on the issue since Cruz's surge in early-voting state polls have threatened Trump's front-runner position.

And the billionaire has hinted that the legal question would consume at least part of Thursday night's Republican debate.

"I'm sure we'll get into it tomorrow night," Trump told supporters at a campaign rally Wednesday in Pensacola, Florida.

Cruz, who was born to an American mother and granted automatic U.S. citizenship when he was born, has fought back against the repeated jabs at his presidential eligibility.

In a memo that circulated earlier this week, the Texas Republican's campaign accused Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe of "flip-flopping" on the natural-born citizenship issue. Both Trump and Huckabee have cited Tribe on the issue.

The flip-flopping charge stems from Tribe's conclusion about John McCain's citizenship when he ran for president in 2008.

Tribe and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson were commissioned by McCain's campaign to research the issue, and according to Politifact, they arrived at this conclusion: "Based on the original meaning of the Constitution, the Framers' intentions, and subsequent legal and historical precedent, Senator McCain's birth to parents who were U.S. citizens, serving on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, makes him a 'natural born citizen' within the meaning of the Constitution."

For Tribe, either one of these two facts were sufficient to secure McCain's eligibity to run: that both his parents were U.S. citizens and that the Panama Canal Zone was a sovereign U.S. territory at the time of McCain's birth. Neither case is true for Cruz.

On Wednesday, Cruz dismissed the assaults as a sign that his strengthening campaign was only making rivals nervous.

"I understand, Mr. Trump and other candidates in the race being disturbed that candidates are coming together," Cruz said. "And when they're disturbed they try to raise whatever attacks that can."