As Cruz Rises in U.S. Presidential Polls, Trump Calls Him “Maniac”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump had a new target on Sunday, calling fellow White House contender Ted Cruz “a little bit of a maniac” as the U.S. senator surpassed him in an Iowa poll.

Cruz’s dogged pursuit of conservative Iowa voters has paid off in the form of a 10-point lead over Trump in the state, which has one of the earliest presidential contests.

Unlike the other Republicans in the 2016 White House race, the U.S. senator from Texas has embraced Trump and avoided publicly criticizing him.

But last week, he questioned Trump’s judgment at a private fundraiser, according to The New York Times, after the billionaire businessman advocated temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.

That got Trump’s attention. “I don’t think he is qualified to be president,” Trump said on Fox news.

Cruz rose to 31 percent, above Trump’s 21 percent, in an Iowa poll released on Saturday by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. That’s a 21-point jump from October.

His rise came at the expense of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who dropped to third with 13 percent in the poll, while U.S. Senator Marco Rubio hovered at 10 percent. Jeb Bush was at 6 percent, a 1 percent increase from October.