MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Donald Trump ran afoul of some conservative activists Saturday with an attack on Republican presidential rival Ted Cruz for his failure to disclose certain bank loans during his 2012 Senate bid.
“You give a campaign contribution to Ted Cruz, you get whatever the hell you want,” Trump told a tea party gathering in the early voting state of South Carolina.
By the time Trump added that he thinks Cruz is “a nice guy,” loud boos had commenced among the hundreds of attendees divided almost exclusively between the two leading GOP contenders.
In front of the same audience a few hours earlier, Cruz opted not to mention Trump at all, apparently intent on de-escalating their feud as they pursue for the same frustrated, anti-establishment voters who have defined the GOP campaign thus far.
Cruz instead urged voters to examine candidates’ records on a range of issues dear to conservatives, among them repealing the Affordable Care Act, fighting abortion and same-sex marriage, and opposing bank bailouts like the one Congress adopted in 2008.
“Don’t listen to the words on the campaign trail,” Cruz said. “Look to action.”
It was a more subtle reminder of Trump’s shifts on a number of issues: He previously backed abortion rights and same-sex marriage,
Trump appeared ready to follow Cruz’s lead Saturday. He notably avoided any mention of Cruz’s Canadian birth, despite suggesting in recent weeks that the foreign-born son of an American mother and Cuban father is not eligible to serve as president. And he saved his barbs until the end of a meandering 45-minute speech.
Still, Trump’s official Twitter feed blasted Cruz throughout Saturday, as he sought to capitalize on a pair of New York Times reports detailing Cruz’s failure to explain fully two loans from Citibank and Goldman Sachs that he now says he used to help finance his 2012 Senate campaign.