Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz checks a microphone during his speech at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Jan. 16, 2016.
Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

How Ted Cruz gets ‘nasty’ without being nasty

Updated

First it was a link to the iconic dance montage in the 1983 hit “Flashdance,” then it was a clip of Fonzie jumping the shark in a 1977 episode of “Happy Days.” Monday brought another gem — the 1986 music video for Janet Jackson’s “Nasty.”

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz may not be willing to fight fire with fire when it comes to attacks from his closest rival, Donald Trump. But clearly, pop culture references from the 45-year-old’s childhood make for a decent alternative.

Monday’s tweet was in response to Trump’s latest interview on “This Week,” during which the real estate mogul repeatedly called Cruz a “very nasty guy.”

“I don’t think Ted Cruz has a great chance, to be honest with you,” Trump told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday. “Look, the truth is, he’s a nasty guy. He was so nice to me. I mean, I knew it. I was watching. I kept saying, ‘Come on Ted. Let’s go, okay.’ But he’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He’s a very — he’s got an edge that’s not good. You can’t make deals with people like that and it’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.”

Cruz’s unpopularity in Washington is no secret. In fact, it’s something the Texas senator considers “a badge of honor” as he seeks the support of voters who are disillusioned with the goings-on in Congress. Perhaps less well-known, however, is that Cruz is highly literate from a pop culture standpoint, and has impressive instincts when it comes to letting it show.

In December, when the first cracks in the Trump-Cruz bromance came into view, Cruz responded to Trump’s characterization of him as “a little bit of a maniac” with this pithy tweet:

Three weeks later, after Trump began to raise doubts about Cruz’s eligibility to run for president, Cruz tweeted out an infamous clip from the TV show “Happy Days” that has since become an idiom for the moment when something good becomes terrible.

With just 14 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, and polls showing an increasingly tight race between the two candidates, Cruz suggested Monday that Trump’s latest attack showed he was a “a little rattled.”

“For whatever reason he is very, very dismayed and I guess as conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign, as his poll numbers continue to go down, that seems to be — he’s a little testy about it,” Cruz told reporters at a campaign stop in Washington, New Hampshire. “But listen, from my end I have no intention of responding in kind.”

The presidential campaign: Ted Cruz
The Texas senator was first to announce his bid back in March, and has since been carefully laying the groundwork for a come-from-behind primary victory.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

How Ted Cruz gets 'nasty' without being nasty

Updated