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Trump, Cruz try to debunk each other's outsider image

Republican presidential primary hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, left, and Donald Trump have attacked each other as they’re locked in a tight battle in Iowa for its primary win.

New York Times

Republican presidential primary hopefuls Sen. Ted Cruz, left, and Donald Trump have attacked each other as they’re locked in a tight battle in Iowa for its primary win.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday there's nothing wrong with a little deal-making to get things done.

"You know what? There's a point at which: Let's get to be a little establishment," Trump told about 1,500 people at a rally at the Las Vegas South Point Resort and Casino. "We've got to get things done folks, okay? Believe me, don't worry. We're going to make such great deals."

It was an effort by the billionaire developer to draw contrasts with Ted Cruz, his top rival in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. The author of The Art of the Deal suggested that Cruz, largely boxed out of Senate deal-making circles, can't operate effectively in office.

"Guys like Ted Cruz will never make a deal because he's a strident guy," Trump said.

Trump, who is dominating national polls, highlighted his endorsement this week from tea party darling Sarah Palin as validation of his outsider status. But he also pushed back against the idea that collaboration is a dirty word.

He pointed to the famous relationship between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill in the 1980s. "That's what the country's about really, isn't it?"

The attack comes as Trump and Cruz are locked in a tight battle in Iowa. Cruz is an ideological purist who has long argued that Republicans need to elect a conservative who will energize the base instead of another moderate.

Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, Cruz repeated his charge that the Republican establishment is "rushing to support Donald Trump."

"So, if as a voter, you think what we need is more Republicans in Washington to cut a deal with" congressional Democratic leaders, Cruz said, "then I guess Donald Trump is your guy."

Trump, who has questioned Cruz's eligibility to serve as president because he was born in Canada, also noted that none of Cruz's Senate colleagues had come to his defense on the issue.

"There's something wrong there. And I can tell you, they like me, those guys. And there's nothing wrong with that, folks. We've got to make deals!" he said. The next president, he said, shouldn't have to rely on executive orders to push through his agenda on issues like improving trade imbalances with countries like China.

In Iowa, Cruz and Trump are tied, based on several statewide surveys. Cruz's support among evangelical voters — a key group in the state's GOP caucuses — has surged in recent weeks, helping him gain on Trump, long the clear frontrunner in Iowa polls.

"We're seeing the Washington establishment abandoning Marco Rubio and unifying behind Donald Trump," Cruz told reporters in New Hampshire late Wednesday. "And we're seeing conservatives coming together and unifying behind our campaign. And if conservatives unite, we win."

Trump dismissed Cruz's assertions.

"He's a nervous wreck. He's had his moment and he blew it," Trump said to supporters Thursday.

Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Trump, Cruz try to debunk each other's outsider image 01/21/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:44pm]
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