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Republican White House race mired in ‘War of the Wives’

world Updated: Mar 25, 2016 21:41 IST
Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Republican race

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his wife Melania after a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.(AFP file)

Republicans have now dragged their spouses into the race for the White House and it’s getting quite ugly, with the frontrunner Donald Trump right in the middle of it, as always.

In an escalating spat, being called the “War of the Wives”, Ted Cruz, placed second in the Republican race, called Trump a “snivelling coward” on Thursday for attacking his wife Heidi Cruz.

The Trump campaign — and not Trump himself, this time — dismissed Cruz’s outburst as an attention-seeking gimmick “to try and stay relevant in a race that he has lost”.

Trump leads Cruz by a wide margin in the count of delegates needed to clinch the party nomination 739 to 465 (John Kasich is a distant third with 143). They need 1,237 to win.

As a sense of inevitability grows around Trump, Cruz has become the unlikely choice of the party leadership, overcoming their earlier distaste for him, to stop the frontrunner.

And conservative Super PACs — Political Action Committees, which can raise money in support of a candidate but have no direct links to their campaign — too are rallying around Cruz.

Republican US presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz is accompanied by his wife Heidi and daughter Caroline during a campaign rally in Houston, Texas. (Reuters file)

One such group, Make America Awesome, started this spat over wives with an ad on its Facebook campaign that showed the frontrunner’s wife, Melania Trump, partially nude.

That picture ran in GQ magazine in 2000, five years before she married Trump. She was Melania Knauss then, and a top model who had appeared on the cover of many magazines.

The Facebook ad by the Super PAC was titled: “Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady.” “Or,” it said, “you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday (the March 22 nominating contests).”

Trump responded on Tuesday night in a tweet holding Cruz responsible for the Facebook ad and threatening to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife Heidi.

Cruz denounced the ad and denied he had anything to do with it. But Trump seemed unconvinced, and his campaign continued calling for Cruz to stop it.

Trump didn’t carry out his threat but retweeted a post from a supporter on Thursday that had a rather unflattering mugshot of Heidi Cruz, alongside a very glamorous Melania Trump.

The caption, as it appeared in the supporter’s post, said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Trump simply retweeted the whole package without modifications.

That was a new low even for Trump, who once said a TV anchor asked him tough questions because she was menstruating (he denied that later), and mocked rival Carly Fiorina’s face.

This time, he shocked even his supporters, including erstwhile rival-turned-backer Ben Carson, who said on a TV show his endorsement didn’t cover everything Trump does.

And Cruz slammed Trump hard at a news conference on the campaign trail: “I don’t get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time.”

He added, wagging at finger at the bank of cameras facing him, ““Donald, you’re a snivelling coward, leave Heidi the hell alone.”