Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told donors at a private fundraiser this week in New York City that GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump was facing a “challenging question” on whether or not he has the “judgment” to be president when it comes to his "finger on the button" (video below).
Cruz, who has avoided criticizing Trump publicly, told about 70 supporters his opinions about Trump and fellow candidate Ben Carson, which an attendee provided audio of to The New York Times:
Both of them I like and respect, both Donald and Ben. I do not believe either one of them is going to be our nominee. I do not believe either one of them is going to be our president. I think both of them, their campaigns have a natural arc and with both of them I think gravity is pulling them down. We've seen that Carson is further in that descent.
But I think in both instances in particular, you look at Paris, you look at San Bernardino, it’s given a seriousness to this race, that people are looking for: "Who is prepared to be a commander in chief? Who understands the threats we face? Who am I comfortable having their finger on the button?" Now that’s a question of strength, but it’s also a question of judgment.
And I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them. So my approach, much to the frustration of the media, has been to bear hug both of them, and smother them with love. Because I think people run as who they are. I believe gravity will bring both of those campaigns down and I think the lion’s share of their supporters come to us.
After a Cruz supporter said he was worried about "Trump's finger on the Supreme Court button," Cruz added: "On message, going back to framing the narrative, one of the reasons I am thrilled that Donald Trump is running is that he has framed the central narrative of this primary as who will stand up to Washington.”
Cruz then pointed to his own record of standing up to Washington and taking on leaders of his own party, and the enthusiasm that he has among grassroots voters.
After speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. on Dec. 10, Cruz was asked about his remarks about Trump and said that he was “not going to comment on what I may or may not have said at a private fundraiser."
However, his remarks didn't escape Trump who tweeted on Dec. 11: "Looks like @tedcruz is getting ready to attack. I am leading by so much he must. I hope so, he will fall like all others. Will be easy!"
Trump also tweeted: "@tedcruz should not make statements behind closed doors to his bosses, he should bring them out into the open - more fun that way!"
Cruz stuck with his game plan and bear hugged Trump on Twitter while shifting the blame: "The Establishment's only hope: Trump & me in a cage match. Sorry to disappoint -- @realDonaldTrump is terrific. #DealWithIt"