Supporters of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump shouted in his rival Sen. Ted Cruz’s face as he squared off with them on an Indiana street for more than seven minutes, just a day before Indiana’s do-or-die GOP primary.
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Cruz was finishing up a campaign stop at a restaurant alongside a river in a small town northeast of Indianapolis when he heard half a dozen men chanting “Lyin’ Ted” and other slogans across the street.
The Texas senator made his way toward the men surrounded by a swarm of his supporters and members of the media, then debated the men, one of whom told him, “We don’t want you.”
“I’m running to be everyone’s president,” Cruz told the men. “Those who vote for me and even those who don’t.”
The exchange remained quite heated throughout, with Cruz hitting Trump on the Second Amendment, immigration and media coverage. The men criticized Cruz for his wife’s previous career at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, his call for employing carpet-bombing against ISIS, and being born in Canada. They constantly interrupted each other.
“I will tell you this, sir,” Cruz said, “America is a better country --”
“Without you,” one of the protesters interrupted.
“Thank you for those kind sentiments,” Cruz replied. “Let me point out, I have treated you respectfully the entire time. And a question that everyone here should ask --”
“Are you Canadian?” another protester cut him off.
One of the Trump supporters told Cruz he should drop out because it was mathematically impossible for him to clinch the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the GOP’s convention this summer. Cruz said Trump would not win enough delegates to do so either.
As the men shouted in his face, Cruz pushed them to bring up policy issues. The Republican presidential candidate is known for his accomplished collegiate debating career.
“Civilized people don’t just scream and yell,” Cruz said. “I’m not yelling at you.”
Cruz, whose path to the nomination will grow much more difficult if he fails to stop Trump from winning in Indiana on Tuesday, compared the way he spoke with the protesters and the way the billionaire businessman has handled dissent. Trump said in February that he wanted to punch a protester in the face, and he has said previously that he would pay the legal bills of his supporters who fight protesters. (He later walked back on that.)
“If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn’t have come over and talked to you,” Cruz said. “I wouldn’t have shown you that respect.”
An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll released Sunday showed Trump with a 15 percentage point lead over Cruz in the Hoosier State, with the third remaining GOP candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, trailing Trump by 36 percent.