New data from the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa poll, and interviews with the candidates’ campaign managers, shed light on the clash that could decide the Monday’s winner.
Joshua Green and Sahil Kapur
January 31, 2016 — 9:09 AM PST
Over the last several weeks, the story of the Iowa caucuses has become the battle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
For months, the two outsiders appeared to have struck an alliance, as they beat back their opponents and rose to the top of the Republican field—only to turn on each other in early January and launch a succession of brutal attacks. Cruz’s 10-point lead over Trump in December’s Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll has become a casualty of that battle: in the new Jan. 30th survey, Trump vaulted past Cruz and to take a 28 percent to 23 percent lead.
New data from the latest poll, and interviews with the candidates’ campaign managers, shed light on the strategy, and the impact, of the clash that could decide the Iowa caucus winner on Feb. 1st—and also strongly influence the course of the Republican nomination process.
Rattled by Cruz’s growing strength in Iowa, Trump began raising the issue of Cruz’s Canadian birthplace in early January, claiming it could disqualify him from the White House if he didn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that “No person except a natural born Citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President.” Cruz initially shrugged off the charge. Most legal scholars thought he was eligible. But several did not. And the attack registered. In the Jan. 13th Iowa Poll, 15 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers said they were “bothered” that Cruz “was born outside the United States.” But after two more Republican candidates, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, picked up the theme, Cruz’s trouble spread. In the latest poll released just two days before the caucuses, 22 percent of respondents were “bothered” by Cruz’s former dual citizenship. Sensing blood, Trump sharpened the attack. At a rally on Friday, he called Cruz “an anchor baby in Canada.”
“Donald Trump has instincts that have guided his professional career for the last 40 years,” Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, said of the decision to key on the “birther” issue. “You don’t become one of the wealthiest people on the planet without being able to read people and understand them. And that’s what he’s been able to do [with Cruz].”
Trump didn’t limit his attacks to Cruz’s Canadian origins. On ABC’s “This Week,” he also asserted that Cruz was a “very nasty guy.” As Trump explained on national television: “Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.” Trump also called Cruz a “hypocrite” for taking out a $1 million loan from Goldman Sachs and failing to disclose it.
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