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PolitiFact's guide to Republican-on-Republican attacks
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu February 2, 2016

With the Iowa caucuses over and the New Hampshire primary ahead, the Republican candidates are aiming to draw distinctions among each other like never before.

The longstanding truce between the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, recently turned into a full-out feud, and it will likely continue since Trump took second place to Cruz in Iowa caucuses.

Trump has been repeatedly attacking Cruz as "nasty" and "two-faced" and questioning whether the Canadian-born senator would actually qualify for the presidency. Cruz, for his part, says he’s taken the high road and "hasn’t insulted Donald" personally (Mostly False).

Cruz’s other war, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who came in third in Iowa —has been centered on immigration. The two have made largely inaccurate statements about each other’s positions on the hot-button issue. Then there’s the rest of the field, vying for attention as they trade jabs with Trump and each other.

With so much mudslinging, it can be hard to sort out which accusations and insults are based in facts. PolitiFact’s got you covered. Here’s a rundown of Republican-on-Republican attacks.

Attacks on Cruz

When it comes to Cruz, Trump in particular has seized upon his eligibility for the presidency as fodder. Most legal scholars believe Cruz is in the clear, but the question isn’t 100 percent settled.

"A lot of people are talking about it, and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport," Trump said at a recent rally.

PolitiFact Texas rated this False. There’s no such thing as a "double passport" nor is there any evidence that Cruz, who relinquished his dual citizenship in 2014, ever had or applied for a Canadian passport.

In a different rivalry, Cruz is often attacked for his stance on immigration by Rubio, who often claims Cruz supports "legalizing people that are in this country illegally."  

When Rubio said this at the Las Vegas GOP debate, it rated Mostly False. Cruz did offer an amendment to Rubio’s own Gang of Eight bill that removed the citizenship provision but kept legalization in intact. But Cruz was an ardent critic of the bill for months and voted against it, while his amendment appeared to be a legislative tactic.

At another Republican debate, Rubio accused Cruz of once being in favor of birthright citizenship and flip-flopping on the issue.

He’s mischaracterizing Cruz’s comments in a 2011 radio interview, in which Cruz said, "As much as someone may dislike the policy of birthright citizenship, it’s in the U.S. Constitution." Cruz has since insisted that he opposed the practice and opposes it now. We couldn’t find evidence that contradicts him, and rated Rubio’s claim Mostly False.

Attacks on Trump

As the frontrunner in the polls, Trump is often in the line of fire, with his lack of conservative bonafides as a frequent target.

Many have noted his past liberal stances on abortion and single-payer health care, but Trump’s policies today are still more in line with the Democrats, according to Cruz.

"Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have the identical position on health care, which is they want to put the government in charge of you and your doctor," Cruz said a day before the Iowa caucuses.

That’s False.The three candidates’ positions on health care — repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market-based alternative (Trump), defending and expanding Obamacare (Clinton) and switching to a "Medicare for all" system (Sanders)  — are not at all "identical" and, one could argue, actually contradictory.

Switching attack gears, a Cruz ad that ran in Iowa claimed that the real estate tycoon destroyed the home of an elderly widow to build a casino parking lot.

Whether the ad is misleading or not is a matter of interpretation. The woman’s house was never destroyed and Trump never got anything out of it. But Trump certainly did try to take over the property with years of failed negotiations and a legal battle that he ultimately lost.

The billionaire’s business record was also criticized by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who said at a 2015 GOP debate that Trump was "forced to file for bankruptcy" four times.

We rated Fiorina’s claim Mostly True. While Trump did declare Chapter 11 four times, Trump wasn’t solely responsible for these failures, as Fiorina’s phrasing suggested.

Other candidates have also questioned Trump’s foreign policy judgement, from his once non-interventionist stance on ISIS to an aggressive proposal that seems ignorant of international law.

"Two months ago, Donald Trump said that ISIS was not our fight. Just two months ago," Bush said the GOP debate in Las Vegas in December 2015.

That’s Mostly True. Trump said those exact words in July 2015 — five, not two, months before the debate. In late September, however, Trump also said something that matches the gist of Bush’s claim: "Why do we care? Let ISIS and Syria fight. And let Russia, they’re in Syria already, let them fight ISIS."

By December 2015, Trump had declared he wanted to "bomb the s*** out of them" and "take out their families" as well. The Geneva Conventions, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul correctly points out, bars Trump’s proposal for killing ISIS’ family members.

Attacks on Rubio

Cruz repeatedly goes after Rubio’s role in writing the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill.

"When (New York Democratic Sen.) Chuck Schumer and Marco Rubio tried to push amnesty, it was Ted Cruz who stopped them," according to a radio ad by a pro-Cruz super PAC that aired in Iowa in November.

Whether the 2013 bill was "amnesty" or not is a matter of debate. Cruz was one of 32 senators who voted against it, one voice out of many calling for its defeat. The assertion that he should get credit from stopping it is Mostly False.

Cruz’s statement that the bill "gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees, without mandating any background checks whatsoever," is also False. The bill did not change the number of refugees, the overall framework of the screening process or give the president authority to admit any group at will.

Beyond Cruz, Rand Paul scoffed at Rubio’s hawkish foreign policy as hypocritical, claiming that Rubio "is the one for an open border that leaves us defenseless." Pants on Fire: Rubio has repeatedly advocated for securing the border.

Paul was more accurate when he said Rubio’s tax plan proposes a new $1 trillion "welfare program" and "$1 trillion in new military spending." The figures are right, but Paul didn’t say that the costs are over 10 years and it’s a stretch to the call the $1 trillion child tax credit "welfare."

Rubio’s habit of playing hooky in the senate has also been criticized by the other candidates. He currently has the worst attendance record of all the senators running (missing 13.3 percent of votes in his career), but not "the vast majority," as Paul claims.

Attacks lost in the fray

While the leading candidates are barraged more often, the rest of the field hasn’t exactly been spared by Trump.

While he continues to mock Bush for his "low energy" and low polling numbers, Trump’s assaults on Bush were more substantive when the former governor was the presumptive frontrunner in the early days of the race.

"Jeb's policies in Florida helped lead to its almost total collapse," Trump tweeted in September.

Experts agreed that Bush did not cause the Great Recession, but some noted that he could worked to throttle down the overbuilding that was one of the factors in the housing bubble. We rated Trump’s claim Mostly False.

In a November GOP debate, Trump took a hit at Ohio Gov. John Kasich when Kasich implied his proposal to deport 11 million people was crazy. But his claim that fracking "is why Ohio is doing well" overstates the industry’s impact on the state’s economy.

His criticism of Fiorina’s controversial stint as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, however, were largely accurate.

And finally, Trump seemed to forget one of his own attack lines, when he claimed he "never said" that Rubio was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s "personal senator." We found the words verbatim on his website. Pants on Fire!

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PolitiFact's guide to Republican-on-Republican attacks