WASHINGTON, New Hampshire (AP) – Ted Cruz on Monday accused his Republican rival Donald Trump of not being a trustworthy conservative and said the billionaire investor is becoming "rattled" and "dismayed" by his gains.
Both Cruz and Trump were campaigning Monday in New Hampshire, which holds the second contest in the country's critical primary season.
The war of words between Cruz and Trump has intensified in recent days, with Trump going on the offensive over Cruz's eligibility to be on the ballot given his Canadian birth and for Cruz's failure to disclose loans received from Citibank and Goldman Sachs for his 2012 Senate race.
Trump on Sunday called Cruz a "nasty guy" whom no one likes. Cruz tried to turn the insult into a joke Monday, posting a message on Twitter saying Americans feel "nasty" toward the "Washington Cartel." He also posted a link to the video of Janet Jackson's hit song "Nasty."
"Donald seems to be a little rattled," Cruz told reporters before a town hall in Washington, New Hampshire. "For whatever reason he is very, very dismayed. I guess as conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign, as his poll numbers continue to go down, he's a little testier."
Polls show Cruz and Trump locked in a tight race in Iowa, but Trump is polling considerably better in New Hampshire. Cruz embarked on a five-day swing through the Granite State this week as his numbers began to show new strength.
Cruz questioned whether Trump is a true conservative, noting donations he's made to Democrats over the years, including $50,000 in 2010 to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama. And Cruz rejected Trump's self-comparison to Ronald Reagan, saying he was "pretty sure" Reagan never supported or made large donations to Democrats.
Trump, campaigning in New Hampshire late Monday, did not bring up his rival's accusations. Trump has taken to Twitter to blast Cruz in the past, a move Cruz suggested will turn off voters.
"The American people want a steady hand at the helm," Cruz told The Associated Press in an interview on his campaign bus Monday. "They don't want, I believe, a commander in chief who wakes up obsessed with the latest polls and driven to issue a frenzy of tweets. Instead, they want a principled, steady, conservative leader who will do everything necessary to protect this nation and keep America safe."
At a town hall meeting Monday night in Whitefield, New Hampshire, Cruz said voters need to question Trump's credibility, saying he was "nowhere to be found" during the debate in Congress over whether to grant amnesty to immigrants living in the country illegally.
"If you didn't stand up and fight amnesty, when the stakes were live or die, do we lose this permanently or do we win, I would suggest as voters you have reasons to doubt the credibility of the promises of a political candidate who discovers the issue after he announces for president," Cruz said.