— MANCHESTER, IOWA -- Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz isn’t backing down from his fight against Donald Trump as the Iowa Caucuses near, joking about what he called the real estate mogul's daily routine of insulting him.
"Donald has changed how he has approached me in that he is now insulting me every day," Cruz told reporters ahead of a campaign stop in Manchester, Iowa. "He can do that. But that is his prerogative. I do not intend to respond in kind.”
Later in Independence, Iowa, Cruz joked, "Mr. Trump, has had a lot to say about me lately. Each morning is interesting. I learn a lot about myself from Donald every day."
Cruz, though, says policy differences are fair game.
“We are in the season where we are discussing the differences in policy," he added. "I’m happy to have a conversation about how Donald’s and my record’s differ."
Cruz has revamped his pitch to Iowan voters, giving them what he is calling "seven battles” or “seven times for choosing,” to distinguish himself from his opponents, including Trump. Ticking through the issues of right to life, marriage, gun rights, the bank bailout, immigration, healthcare and the Iran Deal, Cruz offered both subtle and not so subtle jabs at Trump.
"If you have a candidate for 60 years of his life has supported partial birth abortion, we should not be surprised if as president, that candidate would not defend that right to life,” said Cruz. Trump, who made comments about partial birth abortion in 1999, has since said that his views have evolved and that he is now pro-life.
On the issue of immigration and healthcare, he attacked Trump by name.
"Mr. Trump’s position today is that he supports Bernie Sanders-style socialized medicine. He believes the federal government should take over all healthcare, that Obamacare didn’t go far enough and that instead the federal government should be in charge of your relationships with your doctor,” said Cruz.
On the campaign trail, Trump has vowed to repeal Obamacare and said he would work with private insurance companies to build other options. He has not laid out a formal healthcare plan.
Super PACs supporting Cruz are also helping Cruz in his fight to overtake Trump’s popularity with voters. Three super PACs, Keep The Promise, Stand For Truth and Courageous Conservatives have released ads targeting Trump today.
Trump hasn’t backed down either, telling CNN that Cruz’s colleagues in the Senate think he is a "whack job" and tweeting today that Cruz “lies” and is a “nervous wreck.”
Today, Cruz has started an hourly countdown to the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucuses, opening and closing his speech with how many hours are left until the Iowa Caucuses.
"177 hours, that’s how long we’ve got until the Iowa caucuses,” Cruz told voters in Maquoketa this morning. “177 hours and Iowa will speak.”