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Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTHE MEMO: Frustrated Trump looks to turn it around Manafort-linked accounts on Cyprus probed: report Republican failure MORE on Tuesday went on an extended riff against rival Ted CruzTed CruzTHE MEMO: Frustrated Trump looks to turn it around Trump: 'No doubt' we'll make a deal on healthcare Wounded Ryan faces new battle MORE in Iowa, as he seeks to beat back a challenge from his closest competitor in the Hawkeye State just weeks before the caucuses.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Cedar Falls, Trump lambasted Cruz as a shill for corporate interests, saying the millions of dollars that pro-Cruz super-PACS have raised is evidence the Texas Republican is in the pockets of billionaires.
“I’m self-funding my campaign. I’m not having people give me checks for millions of dollars,” Trump said. “These guys are all controlled, including Ted. He’s got millions of dollars from these three or four characters that I don’t even know. I mean, they’re wealthy guys giving him millions of dollars. You think they’re doing it for their health? I don’t think so.”
Trump also needled Cruz over his opposition to a federal mandate setting ethanol levels in gasoline. It’s a position that could hurt Cruz in Iowa, which leads the nation in ethanol production.
“Ted is completely against ethanol, please remember that,” Trump said. “I’m for ethanol and I think it’s an important thing, so please remember that. … I think it’s fantastic. Anything we can do to create fuel is good because we stay away from the Middle East.”
And Trump resurrected his attacks against Cruz over his birthplace, seeking to raise more questions over Cruz’s eligibility for the White House.
Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and Cuban father. Many legal experts believe that makes Cruz eligible to be president under the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause, but several of Cruz's rivals remain unconvinced and have been happy to highlight the place of his birth.
Cruz held dual U.S.-Canada citizenship until he renounced his Canadian citizenship upon entering the Senate.
“He was actually a citizen of Canada up until 15 months ago, a lot of people don’t understand, and that’s a big problem,” Trump said.
“It’s an unsettled area of the law,” he continued. “Now, I don’t know. What do I know? But I can tell you this. The Democrats are going to bring a suit, and how can you run like that? You don’t even really know. Because a lot of people think that it’s going to be a very, very difficult thing to win that case.”
Trump claimed he’s only raising the issue to make sure the party has all its bases covered in case Cruz becomes the nominee.
“I’m doing it for the party, I’m doing it for Ted,” Trump said. “But you have to be careful. It would be terrible if you go all the way down the line, then you find out that because you were born in Canada – a lot of people say natural born means you have to be born on the land, on the land in this country.
“So we’ll have to see,” he continued. “But it’s certainly a complicating factor. I hope it works out, I certainly do. I mean I want to win anyway, but I want to win very much on the merits and I don’t want to win on a technicality. But that’s more than a technicality, that’s a big, big factor. So we’ll see what happens on that.”
Trump and Cruz are knotted at 27 percent support each in Iowa, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
Cruz has largely let Trump’s attacks slide, blaming the media for trying to set up a “cage match” between the two and saying he won’t return fire.
Cruz and his allies are wary of attacking Trump because they believe they’ll be in good shape to pick up his supporters if the long-time front-runner falters, although there’s been no sign of that happening yet.