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The 5 Stages of Cruz and Trump

Presidential candidates evolved from allied outsiders to mortal enemies in the primary

At a Tea Party Patriots rally in September, Trump and Cruz were still friends. ( Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
At a Tea Party Patriots rally in September, Trump and Cruz were still friends. ( Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz shook up the coronation of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president with a prime-time convention address that offered some startling advice for delegates — “vote your conscience” in November.  

Cruz throwing a monkey wrench into the proceedings and walking off the stage to jeers and boos may not be that all surprising when you consider he and Trump don’t like each other much. That said, it’s worth putting it in context with a look at the five stages of their difficult relationship leading up to Wednesday night.  

Stage 1 – When the Texas Republican senator and New York billionaire businessman first decided to run for president they were competitors but not enemies. Cruz went as far as to call Trump a friend. And before a meeting with him in July, Cruz said, “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s . think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this presidential race.”  

Stage 2 – Cruz made a deliberate effort to play nice with Trump in the early stages of the race. He invited Trump to participate in an anti-Iran rally on Capitol grounds last summer, saying the billionaire mogul’s presence would help draw more attention to the event. “An awful lot of the Republican candidates for president have basically taken out a two-by-four and tried to smack Donald Trump, and I have very consciously avoided doing that, and I’ve regularly sung his praises,” Cruz said at the time .   

Stage 3One of Cruz’s first criticisms of Trump came by way of leaked audio from a December fundraiser that was obtained by the New York Times . At the private fundraiser, Cruz questioned whether Trump had the judgment and strength to be commander in chief and said he expected gravity would bring his campaign down. Trump fired back, saying he doesn’t believe Cruz is qualified to be president and and called Cruz “a little bit of a maniac” for how he’s handled himself as a senator.  As the primary field dwindled, the attacks mounted and Cruz and Trump were friends no more.   

Stage 4 – Trump developed his attack rhetoric against Cruz, calling him “Lyin’ Ted,” and Cruz mounted a narrative of Trump as a bully. Trump took the feud to new heights when he dragged Cruz’s wife Heidi into the mix , first threatening to “spill the beans” on her and then a day or so later retweeting an image of her that another user had posted to insult her appearance.   

Stage 5 – The growing animosity between the two men crossed a final line May 3,  the day of the Indiana primary, when Trump implied Cruz’s father was connected to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Cruz was angry about that, to say the least and decided not to hold back anymore. “ I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump,” he said. What the Texas Republican thinks is that Trump is a “pathological liar,” “amoral,” a “serial philanderer” and a “narcissist,” among other insults. He dropped out of the presidential race after losing the primary that night. 

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