By Yigit Topcu
After months of largely avoiding each other on stage and in rallies, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz clashed face-to-face for the first time on Thursday’s Fox Business Republican debate. While Trump has been the frontrunner for some time now, Ted Cruz’s poll numbers have quietly crept up to number two, ending the two’s seemingly mutual strategy of ignoring each other while running a similar “outsider coming to fix Washington” type of campaign, which has been shown to resonate remarkably well with the 2016 Republican base.
Donald Trump fired the first shot after raising questions about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to run for the office, as he was technically born in Canada to American parents, although most legal scholars agree that Cruz is indeed eligible.
Cruz, in return, defended his comment on Trump’s “New York values”, claiming that there are no conservatives from Manhattan, and the values of New York align more with the left than the right. Trump, in response, invoked memories of 9/11 and New York’s response to the terror attacks as what “New York values” means for him.
It was overall a heated exchange between two candidates that were happy leaving each other be. Cruz’s old strategy of talking around Donald, rather than engage him, was frequently noticeable in the public reactions to Trump’s rhetoric. While the other candidates were generally quick to condemn Trump on his rhetoric towards immigrants or Muslims, Cruz either made no comment or praised his rival for raising such issues, yet always stopped short of endorsing Trump’s proposals.
So far it seems that Trump and Cruz are at a stalemate with no clear winner after the debate, but their feud is sure to get more heated as the race continues. Furthermore, Sarah Palin recently came out with an endorsement towards Trump, adding additional fuel to the rivalry between the two. Palin and Cruz are both known for their leadership roles within the Tea Party, so her endorsement of Trump could potentially deal a serious blow to Cruz’s campaign.