Just two days before what Ted Cruz said “could well be the most important day of the entire primary process,” the Texas senator ratcheted up his attacks on GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday by raising questions about the businessman’s refusal to release his tax returns.
“Maybe it is the case that Donald — there have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the mob, with the Mafia,” Cruz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Maybe his taxes show those business dealings.”
“The fact that Donald seems terrified to release his taxes suggests that there’s a bombshell there,” Cruz asserted.
Pressed on his claim about possible Mafia ties, Cruz pointed to “multiple” news stories about Trump’s “dealings with, for example, S&A Construction, which was owned by ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, who is a mobster who is in jail. It is owned by two of the major New York crime families. And that has been reported in multiple media outlets.”
“Republican primary voters deserve to know before the nomination, not after,” he said. “Because you better believe Hillary Clinton and the media are going to go to town on it. And the primary voters should be able to vet all of us.”
New NBC/WSJ polling released on Sunday gives Cruz a 13-point edge over Donald Trump in his home state of Texas, a race seen as crucial to Cruz’s path to a comeback for the nomination.
“We’re going to do very well in Texas,” Cruz said. “And we are fighting hard to beat [Trump] across the country.”
But in Georgia and Tennessee, the polls show Cruz lagging behind Trump - and notably neck-and-neck with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Cruz has long viewed Super Tuesday as critical to winning the nomination. But on Sunday when pressed by Chuck Todd, Cruz refused to say whether he would reassess the future of his campaign if Super Tuesday ends with Marco Rubio holding more delegates.
“I don’t intend to be third in delegates,” Cruz responded. “I don’t believe I am.”
Arguing the contrary, Cruz suggested “there’s going to be a big, big drop off” in delegates between he and Rubio.
“Super Tuesday will continue to narrow the field,” Cruz said.
Rubio’s aggressive attacks on Trump starting with last Thursday night’s debate and the front-runner’s response has dominated headlines in recent days.
But after a month of questioning Trump on policy distinctions, Cruz has ratcheted up his pointed criticisms on his personal finances. On Saturday in Georgia, Cruz suggested Trump may be committing tax fraud.
Cruz himself has released only two-page summaries of his own tax returns, not the full accounting records available that allow for a better understanding of his family’s sources of income.
“We just matched what the opponents did for the last four years,” Cruz said Sunday noting, “Donald Trump has not released so much as a paper clip.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.