Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz dismissed attacks against his record and his personal style Monday, suggesting that his political rivals are “panicking” as the Iowa caucuses approach.

“Listen, politicians behave a certain way when they are panicking,” he told NBC in an exclusive interview aboard his campaign bus. “And they engage in attacks, they engage in personal attacks, that’s human nature. I understand that. I am not going to get drawn into that muck.”…

“Two weeks ago, just about every Republican candidate was attacking Donald Trump. Today just about every Republican candidate is attacking me,” he said. “That seems to be an indication that something has changed in the race.”

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It is probably only Trump who can hurt Cruz at this point, and only if he is very serious about doing it. I don’t believe the bizarre attacks on Cruz’s faith are going to work, and although the silly Canadian thing (I loved Jim’s take from The Jolt) could create doubts about Cruz for some voters, that doesn’t strike me as a very telling attack either.

From where Trump sits, the best jibes against Cruz, it seems to me, would be 1) Ted Cruz is afraid of me; 2) Ted Cruz is a political insider; 3) Ted Cruz wants you to believe that he’s like me, but he’s not. Much of this would be an authenticity critique. It may be that Cruz’s brand is too established for any of this to work against him, either. But Cruz clearly worries about the potential damage of broadsides from The Donald, which is why he is constantly deflecting and ducking and covering when it comes to the real-estate mogul.

As for Trump, at some point I’d think he has to realize how important Iowa is. It could make the difference between him winning no states and establishing a commanding position for the nomination within the first 8 days. And at this point, unless an army of new Trump voters is going to swamp the caucuses, he has to go through Ted Cruz to win Iowa.

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Donald Trump, who credits himself for bringing the issue of illegal immigration to the forefront of the 2016 election cycle, is complaining that Republican rival Ted Cruz hasn’t given him due credit for his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The other day I heard Ted Cruz say we’re going to have a border, we’re going to have a wall,” Trump told MSNBC on Wednesday. “It’s the first one I’ve heard!”

“Finally, somebody’s coming around,” he said. “I give him credit for that. But he didn’t give me credit.”

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“People are picking up all of my ideas, including Ted, who started talking about building a wall two days ago,” Trump told POLITICO on Tuesday. “The fact is, they won’t get it built, they don’t know how to do the job and they won’t get Mexico to pay for it.”…

“He’s been working on these things a long time and long before Donald Trump announced his candidacy,” Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler told POLITICO, pointing out that the Texas senator was a “chief opponent” of the bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013. “We are glad that Donald Trump announced his candidacy and we are glad that Donald Trump brought a lot of attention to these issues, but it is not true to suggest that he’s not been thinking about these issues and working on them for a long time.”

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In separate interviews with CNN, Trump and Cruz squared off over the businessman’s comments — reported Tuesday in The Washington Post — that the senator’s birth in Canada could pose a “big problem.” Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Cruz, whose mother was a U.S. citizen, should go to court and ask a judge to rule that he’s eligible to run for president.

“How do you run against the Democrat, whoever it may be, and you have this hanging over your head if they bring a lawsuit?” Trump said in an interview that aired on “The Situation Room.”

Trump said Cruz should to ask a judge for a “declaratory judgment” that Trump said would protect Cruz against any future questions about his eligibility that could come in a general election…

Trump added: “I’m doing this for the good of Ted … I like him. He likes me.”

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Asked again if he thought Cruz was qualified to be president, Paul said he wasn’t “an expert” on what the Constitution says about natural-born citizens.

“You know, I’m not an expert on the natural-born clause in the Constitution and people have various opinions,” said Paul. “Some people believe it means you need to be born here, some people think it means you can be born in another country as long as your parents are citizens.”

“And we’ve had some previous cases of it, but I don’t think we’ve ever gone through the court system for the Supreme Court to decided one way or another,” he continued. “It is interesting, and I think sometimes people point out that it’s a double standard, in the sense that people went out, hot and heavy, including Donald Trump you know, about President Obama when there was really nothing more than conjecture that he wasn’t born in the country. And yet, there hasn’t been really the same outrage at all for some one who actually is born in another country.”…

“You know, we live in a really litigious world and it is a concern that people will sue over him not being born in the country, you know, it hadn’t been a big discussion yet and I think this will begin the discussion of it,” said Paul. “I am not enough of a legal scholar to say the court will decide one way or another. In fact, probably nobody knows how the court would decide because it’s never been adjudicated before.”

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After months of campaigning on behalf of her husband, Kelley Paul singled out Senator Ted Cruz for playing a “two-faced” game on the trail.

“In many cases he’s appropriated a lot of Rand’s positions and then wants to sort of have it both ways,” the wife of the senator said in an interview with Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect.”

“When Rand was an outspoken critic against the NSA and bulk collection of data and privacy,” Paul said, “Cruz was right in there saying ‘Yes, I’m for that,’ and now he’s sort of parroting the other side, ‘Oh, well, I’m actually—I voted for it because it’s actually going to allow us to collect more records and become more invasive,’ so he’s talking a little bit out of both sides.”

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Marco Rubio tore into two of his fellow senators and presidential primary rivals in New Hampshire on Monday, decrying “isolationist candidates” whom he said appear to be “more passionate about weakening our military and intelligence capabilities than about destroying our enemies.”

“While some claim they would destroy ISIS, that they would make the sands of the Middle East ‘glow in the dark,’ my question is: with what? Because they certainly can’t do it with the oldest and smallest Air Force in the history of this country, or with the smallest Army we’ve had since World War II, or with the smallest and oldest Navy we’ve had since 1915,” he continued, referring to Cruz’s pledge in December to “find out” if sand could glow in the dark from repeated airstrikes on Islamic State targets, reiterating that his fellow candidates’ supported cuts would lead to such a scenario.

Rubio also vowed to restore and strengthen the intelligence programs that Congress allowed to expire last year, remarking upon the “sophisticated encryption” that ISIL uses to communicate.

“It was already difficult to infiltrate them, now it is even harder,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “If ISIS had lobbyists in Washington, they would have spent millions to support the anti-Intelligence law that was just passed with the help of some Republicans now running for president.” Cruz voted to curb those surveillance powers.

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At stop after stop, Cruz is warning audiences that the worst is yet to come: potentially tens of millions of dollars in attack ads against him that will make it all the more important Iowans don’t stay home by the fireplace on a likely frigid night come Feb. 1. Throughout the trip so far, he has largely avoided wading too deep into each attack, categorically dismissing them as a natural byproduct of his rise to the No. 1 spot in the Hawkeye State.

More than once Monday and Tuesday, Cruz seemed to revel in the negative attention, using it as a convenient foil in his anti-establishment pitch to voters. Speaking Monday afternoon in Carroll, Cruz paused to acknowledge flyers that were passed out before the event by critics of his position on ethanol, which the flyer said would kill tens of thousands of jobs in Iowa. The pro-ethanol outfit behind the materials, America’s Renewable Future, has been criticizing Cruz over his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets a minimum amount of biofuels that must be blended into the gasoline supply.

“‘Ted Cruz is dangerous!'” Cruz boomed, mockingly reading the mailer’s ominous billing before adding: “You know what? To the Washington cartel, to the career politicians there that are getting fat and happy and want the gravy train to keep going, that’s exactly right.”…

The source of the Cruz attacks was not always known as the bus tour got underway. In a parking lot near his stop Monday afternoon in Guthrie Center, flyers were attached to windshields of cars accusing Cruz of being “SOFT ON TERROR,” — apparently due to his votes over the years against the annual defense spending bill, which Rubio has made a subject of scrutiny.

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The Cruz campaign has long operated from the assumption that Cruz would be well positioned to inherit Trump’s supporters, should The Donald fade. That’s widely known, and widely thought to be one key reason Cruz won’t directly hit back at Trump. But there is more to it than that.

“We recognized that Trump changed all the rules,” Tyler tells me. “Attacking back clearly doesn’t work with him. He’s a celebrity. It’s like attacking your favorite morning host. It would be like going out and attacking your favorite pop star. Fans would hate that.”

The idea, then, is that there is little percentage in engaging Trump directly, precisely because of the unconventional nature of his appeal. After all, some of the other GOP candidates have tried this, only to disappear from the race rather quickly. The long-term calculation is two-fold: if it is correct that Trump’s support is rooted more in celebrity than in anything else, attacking him is futile and his support may prove fleeting on its own, meaning there’s little need to make a bid for it by going after him personally and directly.

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) told volunteers Thursday he believes the Republican presidential contest will be decided in the next 90 days, but warned them to get ready for a nasty ride.

“I want to tell everyone to get ready, strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming,” a hoarse-sounding Cruz told volunteers on a conference call. “Come the month of January we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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Via the Blaze.