Donald Trump continued to raise doubts Sunday about rival Ted Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency, saying Republicans will risk losing a lawsuit—and potentially the nation’s highest office—if they nominate Cruz as their candidate.
With Cruz edging Trump in polls in Iowa, which will hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses next month, the billionaire real-estate developer spent much of an hour-long speech in Reno, Nevada, questioning whether Cruz’s birth in Canada could disqualify him from being president.
Born in Calgary to a U.S.-born mother, Cruz has said he meets the constitutional requirement that a president be a natural-born U.S. citizen. Trump, who earlier raised doubts about President Obama’s birthplace and eligibility for office, intimated last week that Cruz may not meet the legal standard and has not backed off since.
“Ted has to solve this problem,” Trump told more than 5,000 cheering supporters at the Reno Events Center. “He’s got a big problem. If he were lucky enough to win and be your candidate, he’s going to be sued by the Democrats.”
Cruz himself said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that his mother was born in Delaware and has “never been a citizen of any other place.”
“The Internet has all sorts of fevered swamp theories,” he said.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released earlier Sunday showed that Cruz leads Trump in Iowa by a margin of 28 percent to 24 percent.
Trump stopped short Sunday of predicting victory in the Iowa caucuses, though he said if he wins in the state, he would “run the table” elsewhere in the Republican nominating contest.
After saying he liked Cruz personally, the New Yorker also said the Texan was beholden to oil interests and that he only recently came around to a hard-line position on illegal immigration after backing “amnesty.”
Holly Harris, 53, of Roseville, California, said she didn’t interpret Trump’s questioning of Cruz’s eligibility for office as a slam.
“I think he’s trying to help him out by saying, ‘Hey, prove it,'” said Harris after the rally. She said she would vote for Trump but not Cruz if the senator gets the nomination. “Trump is so passionate and you can see how much he cares about America. He’s incredible.”
Harris’ mother, Betty Cambra, 78, of Lincoln, California, said Cruz parrots Trump at every turn.
“Cruz has been copying Trump ever since Trump started getting clout behind him,” Cambra said. Like her daughter, Cambra—who said she recently registered as a Republican after being a political independent—said she would not support Cruz if he received the nomination.
Most of Trump’s comments about his rival, however, centered on whether Cruz could legally become president.
“Does anybody know more about litigation than Trump?” he asked. “I have a Ph.D. in litigation. Is he a natural-born citizen? I don’t know. Nobody knows.”