While seven GOP presidential contenders were in Boone, Iowa for Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) Roast and Ride over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was in North Carolina organizing his campaign in the state and meeting with party leaders.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wasn’t in Iowa either, as he had events in New Hampshire. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also skipped the Roast and Ride.
According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Cruz needled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio from afar, saying they “don’t fit naturally into any bracket.”
“Either or both could choose to come compete with me in the conservative bracket,” Cruz said. “But I don’t think that is likely. If you look at their records, look at the teams they have hired, if you look at the decisions they are making real-time in the campaign, I think both have decided to compete in the moderate bracket. Indeed, I think Walker and Rubio will become the chief moderate rivals for Jeb Bush in that bracket.”
“There are couple of consequences of that,” Cruz added. “It means those guys are going to spend millions of dollars tearing each other apart because first they have to win their own bracket, which is why you have seen those candidates taking shots at each other already.”
The News and Observer reports Cruz admitted he won’t win the moderate bracket. However, he said his campaign is picking up support from the moderate donors, hinting that electing a moderate Republican in 2016 “is a path to electing Hillary Clinton president.”
Cruz’s decision to unload on Walker and Rubio might be the beginning of him opening a new aggressive level of campaigning. He’s largely avoided throwing elbows among his fellow 2016 contenders until this point.