WHITEFIELD, New Hampshire Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is now taking his case against Donald Trump directly to the voters.
After noting Trump's support for eminent domain and the 2008 TARP bank bailout, Cruz told a town hall audience here that "Donald in the last couple of days has been a little rattled -- his poll numbers went down, and he got a little upset." It marked a notable shift for Cruz, who has recently started criticizing Trump in interviews and press conferences but until now has exercised restraint while in front of voters.
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Addressing the audience, Cruz began by stating that "every one of us has been burned before" by "politicians who sound great on the stump." He then brought up immigration and border security, a topic in which he has often given Trump credit for bringing to the forefront of the Republican primary.
"I like Donald Trump. I respect him personally," Cruz said in the preface to his critique. "In this campaign he's talked a lot about illegal immigration and amnesty."
But Trump, he went on to say, was "nowhere to be found" during the battle over the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration reform bill. Cruz accused him of lacking credibility on the subject.
"[I]f you didn't stand up and fight amnesty when the stakes were live-or-die, when the stakes were do-we-lose-this-permanently or do-we-win, then I would suggest as voters you have reason to doubt the credibility and the promises of the candidate who discovers the issue after he announces for president."
The broadside against Trump came at the very end of the night, at the tail end of Cruz's town hall at White Mountains Regional High School, which was the fifth and last event of the day. He pivoted to Trump after a few minutes of addressing a voter's seemingly unrelated question about addressing the national debt.
In contrast Trump was strikingly quiet about his onetime ally during his campaign events in New Hampshire and Virginia on Monday. He used the airwaves and Twitter to hit Cruz.
On Saturday, Trump was booed by some members of the audience at a South Carolina Tea Party rally as he attacked Cruz.
Cruz told his audience that his criticism of Trump would not be personal.
"Not only am I not going to assault Donald Trump, I will continue to sing his praises personally, but I do think policy differences are fair game," he declared.
From there, the attack on Trump expanded beyond immigration to the question of bank bailouts and eminent domain after telling the audience that Trump was "welcome to launch whatever insults he lives" and that while he had no intention of reciprocating personal attacks, "policy differences" were fair game.
"Don't listen to what we say as candidates," Cruz said urging voters to look at the candidate's records. "You should ask where did you stand on the TARP big bank bailout. Did you oppose it or support it? Where did you stand on Obama's massive stimulus plan, did you oppose it or support it? On both of those, I opposed it. On both of those, Mr. Trump supported it."
Cruz used eminent domain to portray the billionaire as a land grabber saying, "Donald Trump has said he thinks eminent domain is fantastic, and he supports using government power to seize private people's homes, to give them to giant corporations to, say, hypothetically build a casino. Now he's entitled to have that view but my view is we have an obligation to protect the rights of Americans, and private property is essential to the rights of Americans."