After nasty exchange, Cruz challenges Trump to one-on-one debate in Wisconsin

Sen. Ted Cruz during a campaign event on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Greenville, S.C.

Sen. Ted Cruz during a campaign event on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Greenville, S.C.  (ap)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz criticized Republican presidential rival Donald Trump for threatening to pull out of Tuesday night’s town hall in Milwaukee and called on the billionaire businessman to debate him one-on-one.

During a rally in Wisconsin that came on the heels of him winning the endorsement of the state’s governor, Scott Walker, Cruz said the race between him and Trump "is neck and neck. Donald Trump and I are effectively tied in the state of Wisconsin. That means ... any candidate running for president owes it to come in front of the state and actually debate."

Cruz added, "Now our friend Donald finds debates very, very stressful. They make his hair stand on end."

The Texas lawmaker, who leads Trump by a point in Wisconsin, has called on Trump to debate only him before – notably after Trump backed out of a scheduled Fox News debate last week – but this is the first time he has challenged the real estate tycoon since their much-publicized sniping over their wives erupted last week.

"We’re in the same location. They got the TV cameras; they got the moderators ... the one thing they’re missing is 'The Donald,'" Cruz said, then referred to his rival's penchant for Twitter. "Donald prefers to communicate in 140 characters or less."

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Cruz added: "The people of Wisconsin deserve a real debate … Donald’s absence speaks even louder than his presence."

The Cruz-Trump war of words really got personal last week, after Trump went on a Twitter rant against an ad by the Make America Awesome PAC that used an image of Melania Trump from a British GQ photo shoot that the candidate’s then-girlfriend – and a former professional model – did over 15 years ago.

Cruz denied having any involvement with circulating the ad, but that didn't stop Trump from mocking the Texas lawmaker's own wife, Heidi, for suffering from depression. 

The feud deepened after the National Enquirer ran a story last week alleging that Cruz has had multiple extramarital affairs.

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