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GOP candidates aren't pulling punches ahead of Iowa

A combination photo shows U.S. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, right, in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Ted Cruz in Boone, Iowa, both respectively on Jan. 4, 2016.

Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich and Brian Snyder

The Republican presidential nomination is growing increasingly more fractured as the primary race becomes more urgent.

The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are just over two weeks away, so that leaves little time for pulling punches.

CBS News' Julianna Goldman reports that the best way to think about the fight for the Republican nomination right now is a tale of two primaries: You have one battle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and then there's the fight between candidates like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush vying to be the alternative.

What they all have in common is just how harsh and personal the Republican race has become.

With Cruz nipping at his heels, Trump ventured into more traditional political territory on Friday. Instead of the usual massive rally, he held a smaller town hall.

"We have to caucus, before we forget, we have to caucus, we have to get out," Trump told the crowd.

He later appeared at a local Pizza Ranch, a frequent stop for White House hopefuls.

When asked why he didn't mention Cruz, Trump said, "What's to mention? What's to mention?"

That wasn't the case at Thursday's night's debate.

"I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa," Cruz said.

To which Trump responded, "As you know Ted, in the last three polls I'm beating you."

And while Trump steered clear of hitting the Texas senator when he was retail politicking, in TV interviews on Friday, he continued to hammer Cruz for dismissing "New York values" as code for socially liberal leanings.

"I'm not sure that he knows what he means to be honest with you," Trump said on CNN. "I thought it was very- he should have never said it. I thought it was very insulting to a lot of people."

In South Carolina, Cruz doubled down, linking Trump to Democratic politicians.

"Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio have all demanded an apology," Cruz said, "and I'm happy to apologize. I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by the liberal politicians in that state."

With the gloves off between the two insurgent GOP rivals, the race for an establishment Republican pick also played out on Friday.

In New Hampshire, Rubio hit Christie.

"When it comes to Governor Christie, it's not personal," Rubio said. "We have strong policy disagreements."

And in South Carolina, Bush slammed Rubio for working on a 2013 Senate immigration bill and then opposing it.

"Marco cut and run, plain and simple, for whatever reason," Bush said. "There may be legitimate reasons, but he cut and run."

Democratic presidential candidates will square off in South Carolina Sunday night. That race has narrowed considerably in Iowa between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Polls show he's beating her in New Hampshire.

The Reuters news agency reported that Clinton plans to pour half of her campaign's budget into advertising in the first three months of this year to fend off a challenge from Sanders.