{{show_title_date || "Cruz and Trump engage in fiery exchange over 'natural born'..., 1/14/16, 10:50 PM ET"}}

Cruz brings the fight to Trump on presidential eligibility


After weeks of dodging fights with Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz threw down the gauntlet in Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate.

Dismissing allegations that being born in Canada to an American mother could disqualify him from the presidency, Cruz slammed Trump for politically motivated divisiveness.

“The Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have,” Cruz said, referring to cause of Trump’s recent attacks. “I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling Iowa but the facts and the laws here are really quite clear: The child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.”

He went on to point out that the conspiracy theories behind the birther movement – that Trump elevated and celebrated in 2012, forcing the president to release his birth certificate – could also bring into question Trump’s eligibility. 

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“I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on, some of the more extreme ones insist that you not only be born on U.S. soil, that you must have two parents who were born on U.S. soil,” he said. “Interesting, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified, because Donald’s mother was born in Scotland, she was naturalized.”

“But I was born here,” Trump insisted.

While Cruz has spent much of the election fighting to stay on Trump’s good side, he has started pushing back from Trump’s attacks on him for months as his own numbers rose nationally and in Iowa. On Thursday, he offered up his most stringent attacks on Trump.

“If this all works out, I’m happy to consider naming you as VP so, if you happen to be right, you can get the top job at the end of the day,” Cruz quipped to his rival.

Behind the sixth Republican debate with photographer Mark Peterson
Photographer Mark Peterson provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sixth Republican presidential debate.