Trump doubles down, blames Cruz for ad he didn’t make

Updated

The battle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is getting personal, with the Texas senator coming out swinging after the Republican front-runner threatened to “spill the beans” on his wife, Heidi, on Tuesday night.

3/23/16, 1:06 PM ET

Cruz: No involvement in Melania Ad

GOP contender Ted Cruz addresses reporters about an ad from the group, Make America Awesome, that featured GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s wife, Melania Trump.

While the candidates spent months playing nice early in the election cycle, their sparring has intensified as the race has whittled down — increasingly, both talk like it’s a two man race.

Cruz told reporters on Wednesday that Trump’s attack stemmed from his anxiety about the race.

“He recognizes that if Republicans unite, 65 to 70 percent of Republicans understand that Donald is a disaster, that Donald is a gift to Hillary Clinton,” he said, boasting of his big win in Utah. “He did this attack to try and change the subject.”

Wife Heidi Cruz downplayed Trump’s threat, too, Wednesday. 

“Most of the things that Donald Trump says have no basis in reality, so we are not worried,” she said.

But the Republican front-runner shows no sign of relenting, doubling down in a tweet on Wednesday morning in which he continues to blame Cruz for the ad.

The ad was created by the anti-Trump super PAC Make America Awesome Again: It features a handcuffed-and-naked photo shoot of Melania Trump from 2000, with the caption “meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”

It was a small-dollar ad campaign online, targeting Mormon women in hopes of getting out the vote for Cruz in a state where winning more than 50 percent of the vote was key to the senator’s hopes of garnering all of the state’s 40 delegates. But the ad exploded online on Tuesday night as polls were closing, when Trump started blaming Cruz.

On Wednesday, in an interview with NBC News’ TODAY, Cruz said that threat “speaks volumes about character” and “is the epitome of classlessness.”

“If Donald is trying to mess with my wife, he’s way out of his league,” he continued.

But that’s not stopping the Trump team. The presidential candidate’s son Eric Trump also blamed the ad on Cruz in an interview on Fox News. 

“His super PAC, it’s him. It’s the same thing, right? I think it’s disgusting to tell you the truth, just to be completely honest. Here’s a man who praises, who’s always talking about morality, ‘I’m going to take the high road. I’m going to do this,’ and he does that,” Eric Trump said.

Mair said she has no ties to Cruz, other than supporting his Senate bid in 2010, and knowing some of his past and present supporters. She believes Trump is blaming Cruz for it in order to attack his wife, and said it’s surprising so many are up in arms about an image that’s widely available.

Mair said when conceiving of the ad, she recalled the 2000 photoshoot for the British edition of GQ and ran a Google search. 

“The first image that came up was this,” she said. 

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

Trump doubles down, blames Cruz for ad he didn’t make

Updated