Ted Cruz said in an interview ahead of next week’s critical primaries that Donald Trump’s supporters have “relatively low information” and are “not that engaged” – an oblique dig at the very voters Cruz is aggressively courting.
The Texas senator, though, said in the interview with CBN News that he’s winning over these voters as they “inform themselves” and learn more about Trump’s record. Explaining his comments, he referred to Trump’s past remarks about the “poorly educated” supporting him.
“Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice,” Cruz told CBN. “Where we are beating him is when voters get more engaged and they get more informed. When they inform themselves, they realize his record. He’s what they’re angry at. He is the corruption, and if you want someone to stand up to Washington, the only one who has been doing so in this race is me.”
“Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice.”
Cruz also said Trump is “taking advantage of his voters” – which is roughly the same charge the GOP front-runner leveled at his Republican detractors during a Fox News town hall Wednesday night.
At the forum, Trump pushed back against what appears to be a growing movement among the party establishment — including a few of his former rivals — to at least slow march to the convention with enough delegates in hand to claim the nomination.
The billionaire businessman called his campaign a movement "of competence and common sense and low taxes and [secure] borders and it would be so foolish to give it away."
Trump was referring to a conference held by the conservative American Enterprise Institute at Sea Island off the coast of Georgia over the weekend, where one of the topics reportedly was stopping Trump from securing the Republican nomination.
The conference reportedly was attended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other key Republican congressmen.
"I know all these people," Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. "These are people that are taking advantage of our country. They don’t want to have strong borders. They want stuff flowing across the borders. They don’t want to have taxation when countries treat us unfairly because they benefit from that."
Cruz’s comments about Trump’s supporters comes ahead of another Republican debate Thursday night in Florida, the site of one of five big primaries next Tuesday. The stakes are higher than ever, as those five primaries could decide the fate of Trump’s remaining rivals.
As Trump builds his delegate lead over the field following a string of wins earlier this week, Cruz is positioning himself as the one candidate who could actually beat Trump in the end – citing several primary and caucus victories, most recently in Idaho.
He was buoyed Wednesday by the endorsement of former candidate Carly Fiorina. And, speaking with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, he said the other two candidates in the race – Marco Rubio and John Kasich – do not have a “path to the nomination.”
"Head-to-head, not only do I beat Donald Trump," Cruz said, "but I defeat him resoundingly."
Rubio is under tremendous pressure to win Florida next week, his home state. But a Fox News poll released Wednesday showed Rubio trailing Trump by 23 percentage points among likely Republican voters in Florida.
Rubio, though, told Kelly he has no intention of dropping out right now.
"I have never discussed dropping out with anyone on my team, or anyone on the planet Earth ... I'm the only one who can beat Donald Trump in Florida,” he said.
Rubio also dismissed the possibility that he would form a so-called "unity" Republican ticket with Cruz, Trump's closest challenger in the delegate race, calling it " the kind of drama that makes it interesting in TV to speculate about."
"At some point we're all going to team up," Rubio said in reference to the non-Trump candidates. "We're all going to be on the same team, I hope.”
Former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush also planned to meet with Trump's rivals on Thursday ahead of the GOP debate in Florida, fueling speculation that he's preparing to endorse a candidate challenging Trump.
Ohio Gov. Kasich, meanwhile, is vowing to win his home state next week. He told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that he would "probably not" pick up enough delegates in other contests to overtake Trump, but noted that voters had only "picked about half the delegates [so far] this year ... anything is possible."
A Fox News poll released Wednesday showed Kasich leading Trump by five percentage points among likely Republican voters in the Buckeye State.