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GOP Debate: Trump Says 'Bromance' With Cruz Is Over

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz clash during Thursday's Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, S.C. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz clash during Thursday's Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, S.C.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

There was a new urgency as Republican presidential hopefuls took the stage Thursday evening, with simmering feuds spilling into the open less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

The onetime detente between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz was gone. The billionaire real estate mogul early on had to defend his doubts as to whether the Canadian-born Texas senator is even eligible for the White House.

"I'm not bringing a suit, I promise, but the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit. You have to have certainty; you can't have a question. I can agree with you or not, but you can't have a question over your head," Trump said, defending the line of attack he has brought up on the trail, questioning whether Cruz meets the constitutional definition of a "natural-born citizen."

But Cruz came prepared with fiery responses, saying the only reason Trump is raising the issue now is because his support in Iowa and elsewhere is slipping.

"Back in September, my friend Donald said he had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there, there was nothing to this 'birther' issue," Cruz said to applause, while Trump's arguments were met with loud boos.

"Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed, but the poll numbers have. And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa," Cruz continued. "I've spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court, and I tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump."

The two clashed again later, with Cruz doubling down on his criticisms of Trump's "New York values."

"Let me put this a different way," Cruz said. "Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan" — alluding to Trump's attack on the campaign trail that "not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba."

"There are many, many wonderful working men and women in the state of New York. But everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage, focused around money and the media," Cruz said.

But while Cruz may have won the first showdown, it was Trump who got the momentum out of this face-off, responding to applause that those same "New York values" are what shined after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"New York is a great place; it's got great people, loving people. When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York," Trump said. "And everybody in the world watched, and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made."

Until recently, the two had mostly avoided criticizing each other. But once Cruz began closing the polling gap and even leapfrogging Trump in Iowa, the gloves came off.

"I guess the bromance is over," Trump admitted in the spin room after the debate.

Cruz also clashed later in the debate with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who defended his own work on the bipartisan Senate bill while also unleashing an arsenal of research against the Texas senator on immigration.

"You don't get to say we need to secure the borders and at the same time try to get Barack Obama more authority to allow Middle Eastern refugees coming in when the head of the FBI tells us they cannot vet them to determine if they are ISIS terrorists," Cruz said, slamming Rubio.

"Ted Cruz, you used to say you supported doubling the number of green cards. Now you say that you are against it. You used to support a 500 percent increase in the number of guest workers. You used to support legalizing people that were here illegally," Rubio shot back. "Now you say you are against it. You used to say you were in favor of birthright citizenship; now you say that you are against it."

Both Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — battling especially for support in the critical New Hampshire primary — also laid bare attacks that they've been making against each other on the campaign trail and on the airwaves.

"Unfortunately, Gov. Christie has endorsed many of the ideas that Barack Obama supports," Rubio said, arguing that he supported Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's nomination and wrote a check to Planned Parenthood — something the New Jersey governor denied.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had some good moments, sparring with Trump over tariffs against China, arguing that the businessman's plan would drive prices up and hurt consumers. When Trump shot back and called Bush "weak," the audience booed.

But Bush, along with neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — all struggling in the polls — also had a hard time standing out over the rowdy exchanges of the other candidates. Carson again gave muddled answers on foreign policy, while Kasich touted his free-trade beliefs and experience balancing the budget in the 1990s.

Throughout the debate, all the Republicans had common enemies — President Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

When asked the first question of the night about jobs and the economy, Cruz instead pivoted and criticized the president for not mentioning the 10 U.S. soldiers who were in Iranian custody; they have since been released but were videoed apologizing for entering Iranian waters.

"And I give you my word, if I am elected president, no serviceman or servicewoman will be forced to be on their knees, and any nation that captures our fighting men and women will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America," Cruz said.

"If you're worried about the world being on fire, how we're going to use our military, you cannot give Hillary Clinton a third term of Barack Obama's leadership," Christie said, slamming Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night as "storytime."

Bush pivoted to Clinton, saying she would be a "national security mess" if elected.

"Here's the problem, if she gets elected: She's under investigation with the FBI right now," Bush said. "If she gets elected, her first 100 days, instead of setting an agenda, she might be going back and forth between the White House and courthouse. We need to stop that."

The candidates all also took a strong stand against gun control executive actions that Obama issued last week. Charleston, S.C., the site of the GOP debate, saw its own tragedy last year when a gunman with white supremacy leanings killed nine people at an African-American church.

"The first impulse of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens," said Bush. "That's always what they do, whether it's the San Bernardino terrorist attack or these tragedies that take place. I think we ought to focus on what the bigger issue is. It isn't law-abiding gun owners."

"The Second Amendment is not an option; it's not a suggestion," Rubio said to cheers. "It's a constitutional right of every American to be able to protect themselves. I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in America he would. I am convinced that this president, if he could get rid of the Second Amendment he would."

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