Three influential conservative talk-radio hosts said on Monday that they weren’t impressed by real-estate mogul Donald Trump’s latest attacks against a surging presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
At a campaign rally and during interviews taped last Friday, Trump ripped Cruz’s “temperament,” brought up his Cuban heritage, and bashed his opposition to ethanol subsidies.
Conservative talk-radio hosts have long been among Trump’s staunchest allies as he battled the mainstream media with his provocative statements.
But Trump’s attacks against Cruz didn’t sit well with radio hosts Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin.
“I am not going to defend reckless comments where a candidate or candidates defend the poison that is the Republican establishment,” Levin said on Monday, according to audio posted on his website.
Levin later identified the target of his criticism as Trump, who he said had “really screwed up” by “pandering” to Iowa voters and attacking Cruz for opposing ethanol subsidies. Those subsidies help finance corn-growing in Iowa, an influential early-voting state.
“I am not going to defend blowing up our federal budget subsidizing agribusiness and leftists with ethanol that will screw up your engine and the price of corn!” Levin exclaimed, also slamming Trump for saying he didn’t like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent comments about affirmative action.
“Ladies and gentlemen, do you support ethanol?!” Levin later asked. “Do you support spending billions and billions of your hard-earned tax dollars driving up the debt further to subsidise ethanol, which was a big leftist agenda decades ago? Even the leftists have given up on it.”
During his own radio show on Monday, Limbaugh declared that Trump had stumbled into “blunders” while criticising Cruz, according to a transcript. Limbaugh tore into Trump after playing a clip of the businessman saying Cruz had acted like a “little bit of a maniac” in the Senate.
“Whoa. Wait just a second here,” Limbaugh said. “Doesn’t that kind of describe the way Trump has been dealing with people he disagrees with? I mean, he’s been calling them stupid. He’s been calling them incompetent. He’s been saying you can’t get anything done with these people.”
Limbaugh pointed out that many right-leaning voters are fond of Cruz because of the senator’s supposedly “maniac” efforts to derail the Senate, such as when Cruz spearheaded the strategy that led to the 2013 government shutdown over an Obamacare funding dispute:
That’s so unlike Trump. I mean, that’s a huge mistake. On paper it’s a huge mistake. Trump gets away with his mistakes. Such is the bond of loyalty that his support base has for him that he gets away with them. And I don’t think he’s made that many. Don’t misunderstand. But for any of you who are holding out hope that Trump is a genuine conservative. A genuine conservative, even in the Republican field, would not go after Cruz this way. So that just raised a red flag for me, made me somewhat curious.
Meanwhile, Hannity also reportedly questioned Trump’s decision to go after Cruz, which were apparently in response to Cruz questioning Trump’s “judgment” at a closed-door event last week.
“Here is the problem with going after Ted Cruz who is now rising dramatically in the polls from a Trump perspective. Ted Cruz is loved by the conservative base,” Hannity said Monday, according to the left-leaning group Media Matters.
“Because Ted Cruz, when he did the filibuster in the Senate, that was loved by conservatives,” Hannity said. “They were cheering Ted Cruz standing up against what he calls the Washington cartel. … And I don’t think there’s anyone that is viewed as strongly as a conservative in the field as Cruz is viewed, so I’m not sure if this is going to work.”
Another influential conservative radio host, Laura Ingraham, also seemingly questioned Trump’s strategy against Cruz during her Monday show.
Ingraham said that everyone thought Trump’s attacks would also backfire against retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. But she argued that Cruz is very different from Carson, whose campaign has lagged in recent weeks amid questions about his foreign-policy knowledge.
“They’re different animals,” Ingraham said of Carson and Cruz. “Because Cruz is, I don’t care what you say about him, he’s brilliant. He’s really, really smart. He’s not really making a lot of mistakes. He doesn’t sound unsure on his feet. I think at times Carson has.”
For his part, Cruz responded to Trump with playful tweets off the “maniac” criticism:
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