As Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul battle it out to win the conservative vote in the 2016 presidential primaries, a deep rift has opened up in their friendship.
According to The Hill
, the Texas senator and his Kentucky "friend" have been trading veiled swipes at each other ever since it became clear that they were both planning to seek the GOP nomination.
But the potshots are likely to increase and become more transparent after Cruz officially announced this week at Liberty University, the nation's largest evangelical college, he intended to run for the White House.
"While they both may be Senate Republicans, they're not playing nice in the sandbox because it's all about 2016," Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist, told The Hill. "With Cruz jumping out with his campaign, it causes pressure on Rand Paul to compete."
Paul, who is due to make his entry formal on April 7, has already questioned whether Cruz can realistically be elected, while also doubling down on his comments he made about the Texan on Fox News on Monday.
Paul told host Megyn Kelly that while he's spent two years trying to win over independents and Democrats, Cruz focuses on tossing red meat that ignites conservatives, but turns off others.
On Tuesday, Paul told The Hill, "We have very similar voting records and very different approaches for how to grow the party. I think people are excited by anybody who tries to make the party larger by remaining consistent with our principles."
In the Kelly interview, Paul
suggested that Cruz has little attraction outside the party's base. And he praised Liberty students who showed up at Cruz's speech in the front row wearing "I'm with Rand" shirts.
In fact, while Cruz was announcing his run to rousing cheers from the students, Paul was urging followers to tweet "Stand with Rand."
But now Cruz's camp has shot back at Paul, saying that he's trying to draw away from the Texan's presidential rollout by doing as much press as he can.
"We had a fantastic day in the media yesterday, and we plan to do that today and tomorrow," a Cruz adviser said. "These stories are intended to distract, and we're not going to take the bait."
A year ago, Cruz said, "I'm a big fan of Rand Paul; he and I are good friends." But the friendship is apparently on hold until at least after the election.
Brian Darling, a former aide, believes the pair would continue to trade barbs during the primary campaign.
"I don't see a rivalry as much as Paul and Cruz targeting many of the same voters. They're both messaging to tea party voters," he said.
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