MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.– The increasingly bitter war of words between Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is forcing supporters of both presidential contenders to choose a side.
The conflict was showcased here at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, where Trump ramped up his criticism of Cruz for the loan he took from Goldman Sachs during his 2012 Senate campaign.
“He didn’t report his bank loans,” Trump announced. As the crowd booed, Trump continued, “say whatever you want. He didn’t report his bank loans… And then he acts like Robin Hood. Say whatever you want.”
Breitbart News spoke to grassroots activists who said that they went into the convention as supporters of both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Donald Trump. Several said that Trump’s speech was unimpressive, but ultimately helpful because they now know which side they’re choosing.
“Cruz did a lot better” than Trump at the event, Tom Middleton of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., told Breitbart News. He believes Trump will win, but said he’s been turned off by Trump’s latest attacks on Cruz.
Trump “is the one who pushed the story about Cruz’s eligibility, whether he is a natural-born citizen,” Middleton said. “He took that and ran with that to bring Cruz’s votes down. And then thing about the loan, which don’t amount to a hill of beans and he jumped onto that to bring the votes down.”
In the end Middleton said he’s voting for Cruz, “as kind of a protest to Trump, who pushes things a little too much.”
Denise Retz and her husband Jim Retz, from Summerville, S.C., were Trump supporters until the South Carolina convention, but are now impressed with Cruz.
“Trump was my first choice until I heard him Saturday,” Denise said. “All he talked about was himself. It was all, ‘me, me, me, me,’ and discussed all the money he had, and kept talking about his money. That turned me off really quick.”
Her husband Jim also said that he is now a Cruz supporter. “I’m tired of all of the negative” Denise said. “I want to hear about what they’re going to do when they get into office.”
Marlaide Sullivan of Charleson, S.C., was also unimpressed with Trump, who focused much of his speech on how he took over the long-delayed Wollman Skating Rink project and completed it quickly and under budget. Sullivan says she is now a fan of Cruz.
“I thought his talk was a huge disappointment” she said. “I also felt it was disrespectful to the audience he was speaking to. I almost felt that he was thinking, ‘These people are so stupid I can say whatever I want.’
“All he simply did was brag about hotels he owns, and, ‘I did an ice skating rink and so therefore I can be president of the United States.’ It made me really question whether anyone can consider voting for him for President.”
Trump’ supporters at the event told Breitbart that his speech was not as impressive as they would have liked, but that they still support him.
Cheryl Pass said that she wasn’t a fan of his ice-skating rink story, which her and other Trump supporters have already heard. “Those of us who have been watching him have heard those stories. We just wanted him to get to policy, but we enjoyed it.
Cheryl and her husband, Jim Pass, said that they aren’t Cruz supporters because they don’t believe that he is the outsider he paints himself as. Cruz’s “connections to Goldman Sachs and his wife are problematic” Cheryl said. “He isn’t an outsider.”
Cheryl’s husband added that he believes, “there are things about Cruz that the general population don’t know about,” and he’s glad that Trump is bringing them up.
Breitbart News also spoke to Sheryl Irwin, another Trump supporter, who said that her support remains with Trump despite his less than stellar performance at the event. “You know, he just speaks off the cuff,” she said. “He doesn’t win the award for the best speech.”