The day after he won the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump was a gracious victor. "Look, I'm dealing with very, very talented people, smart people, good people and you know, I think they'll be competing," he said Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation. But in an appearance on ABC's This Week, Trump disparaged Senator Ted Cruz's campaign. "I said to myself, wow, this is a tough business," he asserted, "These people are worse than Manhattan real estate developers."
For his part, Cruz, the third place finisher, said he was the victim of character attacks. "There's no doubt that both Donald and Marco (Rubio) got very personal, got very nasty," he charged on Face the Nation. "They scream liar, liar, liar. They impugn your integrity... and from the beginning of this campaign, nearly a year now, I have consistently refused to respond in kind," he continued.
But the Cruz campaign may have taken politics to a new low this election. His campaign team spread word, just as the Iowa Caucuses were beginning, that candidate Ben Carson was going to drop out of the race. Cruz disingenuously blamed the incident on a CNN report, but Carson called on him to fire his campaign staffers who were responsible for the misinformation. Of course, Cruz did not do so, but he did win the Iowa Caucus.
A strong finish for Cruz in South Carolina was critical to his nomination strategy. However, leading up to the contest, Trump led in the polls and Senator Marco Rubio was gaining momentum. The Cruz campaign pulled out all the stops. South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy accused the Cruz super PAC of creating a fake Facebook page that made it appear Gowdy had retracted his Rubio endorsement. Further, Rubio's campaign accused Cruz's operatives on Saturday of robocalling voters that Rubio was dropping out. However, this claim has not been confirmed.
The Cruz campaign did put out mailers, with a picture joining Rubio and President Obama's face as one, saying they both support trade legislation. And Cruz accused Rubio of employing aides who are supportive of gay marriage in order to draw the ire of conservatives. Nonetheless, Rubio eked out a second place finish Saturday.
Cruz campaign also attacked frontrunner Donald Trump. The Cruz PAC assailed Trump for supporting the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina state grounds. They sent out a robocall charging Trump was too supportive of LGBT rights. In the call, the narrator says, "It's about mandatory celebration. It's about forcing people to bake cakes and photograph gay weddings. Forcing clergy to officiate. It's about transgender bathrooms in your child's schools. It's about tearing down our Judeo-Christian values. It's about tearing down America."
Cruz has attacked Trump on the campaign trail for supporting Obamacare, even though Trump has consistently vowed to repeal and replace the law. And Cruz attacked Trump for supporting Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of conservatives. Trump explained his position in the last Republican debate. "It does wonderful things, but not as relates to abortion." He added, "There are wonderful things having to do with women's health."
According to the South Carolina exit polls, Trump won 78 percent of those voters who chose a candidate who "tells it like it is." Trump also won a plurality of the evangelical vote, a category Cruz was expected to win.
Cruz took the high road Sunday morning when reacting to his disappointing third place finish in South Carolina. "I'm not going to impugn anyone's integrity. I'm not going to attack their character," he said on Face the Nation. "And, in fact, I will happily praise both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio as men who I admire, as people who I am not going to go personal with."
Sure, Senator Cruz.