Austin political experts react to allegations against Sen. Cruz

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AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) – Ted Cruz accused Republican presidential rival Donald Trump of stoking false rumors about his personal life on Friday, charging that the billionaire businessman and GOP front-runner is trafficking in “sleaze” and “slime.”

Speaking to reporters in Wisconsin, Cruz said the campaign has taken a “darker turn.” He accused Trump and “his henchmen” for spreading untrue rumors on social media and in a supermarket tabloid that Cruz cheated on his wife, Heidi.

“Trump demonstrated that when he’s scared, when he’s losing, his first and natural resort is to go to sleaze and to go to slime,” Cruz said.

He added, “He’s willing to attack anyone and everyone. And truth has nothing to do with it.”

In response to Cruz’s comments, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said via email, “There is absolutely no truth to this.”

The accusations are an escalation of the back-and-forth between the two candidates that began this week, when Trump tweeted that he might “spill the beans” about Heidi Cruz. The tweet was in response to an advertisement from an outside group opposed to Trump’s candidacy that featured a risqué photo of Trump’s wife, Melania.

“All of the conversation this week has been from one presidential candidate criticizing her looks to a national paper questioning whether she’s got her husband’s fidelity or not and that’s absolutely not the conversation we should be having,” Travis County Republican Chairman James Dickey told KXAN. “What’s the right response to terrorism, what’s the right response to the lack of economic growth in the country? All of those things that some of the people involved in the race have very real, very different solutions for, and we need to be making our choices based on that.”

In that regard, many Republicans and Democrats agree, saying the focus needs to be on issues impacting Americans.

“I would like to see foreign policy and the threats that face us be the story of the day as opposed to what Senator Cruz may or may not have done with a number of ladies,” Annie’s List Political Director Genevieve Van Cleve told KXAN.

Annie’s List’s mission is to recruit, train, support and elect progressive, pro-choice women in Texas.Van Cleve said the narrow conversation on women presents a larger program within the Republican Party.

“I think it’s very unfortunate and frankly disturbing that two national candidates for the Republican Party have nothing much to say about women except for if they are mistresses or political wives,” Van Cleve said. “We are not just mistresses, we are not just political wives, we are wives, mothers. Golly, we’re working people. And we deserve some respect.”

Cruz, on his Facebook page on Friday, accused Trump, who hasn’t held a public event since Monday, of “hiding in Trump Tower” and campaigning by Twitter instead of holding events with voters.

Asked if he plans to vote for Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee, Cruz said, “I don’t make a habit of supporting people who attack my wife and my family.”

UPDATE: Donald Trump has responded.

“I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week’s issue of the National Enquirer is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it, and have not, as yet, read it. Likewise, I have nothing to do with the National Enquirer and unlike Lyin’ Ted Cruz I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchman and then pretend total innocence. Ted Cruz’s problem with the National Enquirer is his and his alone, and while they were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin’ Ted Cruz. I look forward to spending the week in Wisconsin, winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency in order to Make America Great Again.”

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