Sen. Ted Cruz seems to savor the disdain President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are heaping on him.
As Mr. Cruz and his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls prepare for Tuesday’s primary in New York, criticism from Mr. Obama and his allies has become a way to prove conservative bona fides.
“I’m never surprised when President Obama lashes out and attacks me. I’m never surprised when Mayor de Blasio lashes out and attacks me,” Mr. Cruz said as he campaigned in the state. “Because their policies are failures. Their policies aren’t working.”
An ad from the Cruz campaign also blasted the mayor for carrying out “socialist policies” that are “tearing this city apart.”
The bad blood runs on both sides, with Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Obama criticizing the Texas senator for suggesting a stepped-up law enforcement presence in Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the Brussels attacks.
“I just have to say it’s reprehensible. His comments are not about safety and security. It’s demagoguery,” Mr. de Blasio said. “To paint an entire community with that brush is absolutely counterproductive it’s immoral, it does not conform with American values — but it’s also counterproductive.”
For his part, Mr. Obama has singled out GOP front-runner Donald Trump on numerous occasions, recently dismissing the billionaire businessman’s proposal to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall by threatening to block remittance payments as “half-baked.” The president also said Mr. Trump doesn’t know much about the world in general after he suggested Japan and South Korea could build up nuclear arsenals in the near future.
But Mr. Obama made sure to say he thought Mr. Cruz’s immigration plans were “just as draconian” as Mr. Trump’s, and would also alienate foreign leaders.
Leveraging the criticism from high-profile Democrats like Mr. Obama and Mr. de Blasio could serve to fire up a part of the GOP base for Mr. Cruz that might otherwise stay home on Tuesday, in a race where 95 delegates are up for grabs and where he’s badly trailing Mr. Trump in recent polls.
“Depending on the subject matter, depending on the president’s tone, it can be a badge of honor,” said GOP strategist John Feehery. “The Republican base is still pretty overwhelmingly hostile to President Obama, and on issues where a senator or Donald Trump are kind of stepping out and being criticized by the president, for their constituents, for their base voters that could be a good thing.”
Mr. Cruz has pushed the argument to the hilt as he campaigns in New York, warning the city’s time as a sanctuary city that protects illegal immigrants from deportation will end.
“By the way, let me extend a special message to Mayor Bill de Blasio,” Mr. Cruz said at a town hall airing on MSNBC Thursday. “That means New York City, you’re either going to enforce federal immigration law, or your federal taxpayer dollars are going away.”
Republican strategist Mike McKenna said the attack on Mr. de Blasio is likely to resonate with frustrated conservatives in New York.
“I’ll tell you that nobody hates a guy like Bill de Blasio more than somebody who’s in Queens, or Brooklyn, or the Bronx and has to live with [him] every day,” Mr. McKenna said. “There are no more fervent Republicans in America than Republicans stranded in New York City.”
But Mr. Cruz has had to steer clear of the attack he leveled earlier in the campaign at Mr. Trump when he accused him of having “New York values.”
Mr. Cruz said Thursday he doesn’t regret using the line, but used a question about it to attack Mr. de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“People understood what it meant and I’ll tell you, New Yorkers understood what it meant,” he said at the town hall. “What I find as I travel the state, people come up to me all the time and say I know exactly what you mean and I’m sick and tired of it.”
Mr. Cruz’s allies are also trying to use praise from Mr. Obama against Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The pro-Cruz Trusted Leadership PAC announced plans to run an ad in New York portraying Mr. Kasich as the president’s “BFF” and highlighting Mr. Obama’s complimenting the governor for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.
“Ted Cruz is openly auditioning to become Donald Trump’s vice president by serving as his attack dog in a clear attempt to lift Trump over 50 percent in New York,” Kasich campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in response.
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