PERRY, Georgia — An impassioned Ted Cruz on Saturday hurled repeated attacks at Donald Trump’s business record, mercilessly mocking the GOP front-runner’s reluctance to release his tax returns.
Cruz, speaking at a fairground here in a state that is expected to be one of Tuesday’s most competitive contests, was in rare form as he held nothing back in assailing his chief rival’s calling card: his success as a world class businessman.
“This is my country, damn it!” a visibly stirred Cruz said in a rare display of profanity. “Stand up and fight for it together.”
The Texas senator spent a full three minutes here needling Trump for his stand on releasing his tax returns, which the billionaire has said he will not do until he is cleared of IRS audits. The unprompted riff was altogether Cruz’s most extensive critique of Trump’s personal financial dealings, during which Cruz went as far as to say that it is an open question whether Trump has committed crimes.
“Now this is a man who prides himself on not getting scared of anything,” said Cruz, who poked at Trump for “inheriting $200 million from his daddy.” “So you’re telling me, a few months from now, you may be charged with tax fraud? Now maybe not — I’m not suggesting it — and I’m saying release the returns and let the people see. Because if we’re sitting here in September and October, how much can you imagine the mainstream media salivating over whatever scandal they can paint on Donald Trump.”
Those biting broadsides are a far cry from a few hours earlier, when Cruz was deploring the escalating rhetoric between Trump and their other main challenger, Marco Rubio.
“I have to say, I don’t think it’s a good thing to see candidates bickering,” he told reporters in Atlanta.
Cruz was referring to the feud between the billionaire businessman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, which began at CNN’s GOP debate in Houston Thursday when Rubio hammered Trump on immigration, health care, foreign policy and other issues. Trump shot back with a torrent of insults.
Rubio has been trying to position himself as the main Republican alternative to beat Trump, with major backing from the GOP establishment and donor class. But that message got undercut somewhat on Friday, with surprise endorsements by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — who recently exited the GOP race — and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.