Republican presidential rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ended their truce in last night’s GOP debate, with the billionaire questioning whether the senator is even eligible to stand for election to become president.
The controversial New Yorker and Texas senator traded attacks at the debate in North Charleston – just two weeks before voters in Iowa pick their Republican and Democratic presidential choices in the first of the campaign’s caucuses.
Both men, who have been chasing the backing of the conservative Tea Party movement, had been on friendly terms prior to the debate.
But no niceties were exchanged before the audience in South Carolina, with Trump even questioning his rival’s constitutional claim to serve as president because he was born in Canada.
According to the US constitution only “natural born” citizens can become president, with this widely interpreted as requiring a candidate to have been born in the US or to a US citizen parent.
The 69-year-old frontrunner said: “Who the hell knows if you can even serve in office?
“There’s a big question mark over your head.”
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/14 On Isis:
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
2/14 On immigration:
"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
3/14 On Free Trade:
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP | Getty Images
4/14 On Mexicans:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
5/14 On China:
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?... I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
6/14 On work:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
7/14 On success:
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
8/14 On life:
"Everything in life is luck."
9/14 On ambition:
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"
10/14 On his opponents:
"Bush is totally in favour of Common Core. I don't see how he can possibly get the nomination. He's weak on immigration. He's in favour of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can't do it."
11/14 On Obamacare:
"You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high. It's virtually useless. And remember the $5 billion web site?... I have so many web sites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a web site. It costs me $3."
12/14 On Barack Obama:
"Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
13/14 On himself:
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money."
14/14 On America:
"The American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
Born in Calgary, Alberta, to a US citizen mother and a Cuban father, Cruz accused Trump of mentioning his birthplace simply because Cruz was leading some polls in Iowa.
The 45-year-old said Trump – who has also questioned whether Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama is really a US citizen – had asked his lawyers to look into the issue of Cruz’s birth in September and concluded there were no issues.
“Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed, but the poll numbers have,” Cruz retaliated.
“And I recognise that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are dropping in Iowa, but the facts and the law here are really clear.
“I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump.”
The senator then questioned Trump on his apparent endorsement of New York’s liberal values.
He said: “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan – I’m just saying.
“Everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage.”
Trump cited the 9/11 attacks in response and said that Cruz’s claim had insulted him.
“The people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death... And it was with us for months, the smell, the air,” he said.
“And we rebuilt Downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers.
“And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.”
Additional reporting by Reuters