Donald Trump's premeditated attack on Ted Cruz's Canadian birth

Trump told "Face the Nation" last month that he may raise questions about Cruz's birth in Canada if the Texas senator begins to emerge as a strong rival
Trump told "Face the Nation" last month that ... 00:40

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may be the rare breed of political prizefighter who warns his opponent exactly where he's going to throw a punch - and yet still manages to land the blow, more often than not.

Take, for example, Trump's recent decision to raise questions about whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Canadian birthplace could endanger his presidential candidacy. Cruz has laughed off Trump's suggestion - but he can't say he didn't see the attack coming. The outspoken billionaire offered fair warning that he might come after Cruz if the Texas senator began to rival him in primary polls.

The unabridged version of Republican presiden... 18:08
The unabridged version of the interview with ... 17:21

"I noticed something in the reading that you had mentioned something about Cruz's birth...that he was born in Canada," "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson noted during an interview with Trump last month in North Carolina. "Are you saying something there?"

"Well, I'll only bring it up if he's a final two," Trump replied.

And while the GOP primary is far from being whittled down to only two candidates, Cruz has arguably emerged as Trump's strongest rival. A recent Quinnipiac survey, for example, found Trump at 28 percent nationally, with Cruz close behind at 24 percent. And Cruz has even surpassed Trump in the all-important leadoff caucus state of Iowa, according to several recent polls.

Cue the attack from Trump.

"Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: 'Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?' That'd be a big problem," Trump told the Washington Post in an interview on the subject of Cruz's birthplace. "It'd be a very precarious one for Republicans because he'd be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don't want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head."

"I'd hate to see something like that get in his way," Trump added. "But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport."

For what it's worth, there is a general consensus among legal scholars that Cruz is eligible for the presidency. The Constitution says that only "natural-born citizens" can be president, but it does not clearly define the term. Most legal scholars argue that a natural-born citizen is one who does not have to be naturalized to obtain citizenship, but rather, one who is a citizen by birth. And there is no question Cruz was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth, because although he was born in Alberta, Canada, in 1970, his mother was born in Delaware.

(Also noteworthy: while Trump's claim that Cruz "had a double passport" is not true, Cruz was in fact a natural-born Canadian citizen because of his birthplace. However, the senator renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014.)

Despite Trump's decision to raise questions about Cruz's eligibility, the senator has steadfastly refused to engage with Trump on the issue, arguing the primary should hinge on more pressing concerns.

In a tweet Tuesday, Cruz opted for a tongue-in-cheek response: