The top three contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are launching some of the most vicious and personal attacks of the campaign yet.
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Offering his recollection of a scene backstage at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, Trump said he thought Rubio “was going down.”
“I said, man, I think he's choking,” Trump said. “I said I'm about to witness history. This guy's going down. This guy's going down. And I'm looking and I'm getting ready because, you know, it's like a lot of people, I'm a pretty strong guy. I'm getting ready to grab him because I thought he was -- I thought he was out."
About 500 miles away in Kennesaw, Georgia, Rubio was having some fun with Trump, referring to the New York businessman’s private plane as “Hair Force One” and rendering a less-than-flattering judgment of Trump’s appearance.
“So here’s the one tweet he put out: He put out a picture of me having makeup put on me at the debate, which is amazing to me, that a guy with the worst spray tan in America is attacking me for putting on makeup,” Rubio said. “Donald Trump likes to sue people, he should sue whoever did that to his face."
Meanwhile in Perry, Georgia, a fired-up Cruz jabbed at Trump and Rubio while discussing his flat tax plan and pledge to abolish the IRS.
"Both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio want to keep the IRS. Both of them want to keep the corporate welfare, the special benefits, the subsidies, the handouts, all the things that make the lobbyists in Washington get rich. Both of them want to keep the massive complexity of the tax code, and I’ll tell you what, for whatever reason, Donald Trump doesn’t want to show anyone his tax returns,” Cruz said.
Cruz, who has pledged to release his tax returns but has yet to do so, hammered Trump on not releasing his. Trump has said he is undergoing an audit and would not make public his returns until it was finished.
"Now this is a man who prides himself on not getting scared of anything so what is it he’s scared about handing over his tax returns?” Cruz asked. “You know, Mitt Romney said he thought there was a 'bombshell' and there well may be. Maybe Donald’s not as rich as he says he is. I don’t know if you’ve heard, Donald’s kind of rich. If you haven’t he’ll tell you very quickly. Now it doesn’t hurt that he inherited $200 million from his daddy. That’s a very good way to get rich, pick the right daddy. But maybe, his tax returns show that he doesn’t have quite as much money as he says he does.”
The three candidates were each campaigning in states where voters will go to the polls on Super Tuesday, a day that could be a turning point in the race for the GOP nomination. With Trump in the strongest position to capture a large delegate haul, his two main opponents have been attacking him with a zeal not seen up until now.
But on Saturday, with one of his newest and most prominent endorsers, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, by his side, Trump pulled no punches, excoriating some of Rubio’s past financial dealings and defending the ongoing legal battle over Trump University.
Were he to win the state on Tuesday, Trump quipped, “Maybe I’ll start shopping permanently at Walmart.”