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Donald Trump Takes On A Rising Ted Cruz


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Just seven weeks from the first real votes in the long road of presidential caucuses and primaries. Donald Trump - you've heard the name - continues to lead the Republican polls and stir up controversy, most recently by his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States following terror attacks in Paris and Southern California. And his lead has never been larger. At a rally in Iowa last night, Donald Trump turned to talk to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters was there.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Ditching his normal podium, Donald Trump walked around a stage in a building on the Iowa state fairgrounds. Early on, Trump set his sights on Ted Cruz. The Cuban-American senator has been rising in the polls and picked up an important evangelical endorsement in the state this week.


DONALD TRUMP: I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of Evangelicals come out of Cuba.

MASTERS: Trump also went after Cruz's opposition to ethanol subsidies, which are popular in the state.


TRUMP: He's got to come a long way 'cause he's right now for the oil, but I understand it. Oil pays him a lot of money. He's got to be for oil, right?

MASTERS: But compared to his rough handling of other Republican candidates, Trump was not as hard as he could have been on Cruz.


TRUMP: He actually put out a tweet tonight. He said, Donald Trump is - I think he used the word terrific. That's a nice word. You know, whoever hears that? I can tell you other candidates are not exactly saying that about me.

MASTERS: Trump did not talk about his plan to temporarily keep Muslims from coming to the U.S. in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. But Trump did criticize reports that Republican leaders gathered in Washington to discuss ways to stop him. That antiestablishment message was popular with many in the crowd, including Melinda Rands.

MELINDA RANDS: I kind of look at, you know, people that I might want to sit down and have a coffee with and be able to talk one on one with. And some of these candidates I wouldn't sit down and have a glass of water with them.

MASTERS: Others in the crowd, like sisters Dennise Hunter and Paula Parker, are just now trying to figure out who they'll support in the caucuses. Parker says she wishes others in the GOP field would stop talking about Trump and start talking more about what they would do if elected.

PAULA PARKER: Forget Trump. What are you going to do for me 'cause that's what I'm wanting to know, who's going to do what.

DENNISE HUNTER: They never give us anything substantial.

MASTERS: Trump had not earned their votes yet, but he was the first candidate they'd seen this caucus season. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Clay Masters is a reporter for Iowa Public Radio and formerly for Harvest Public Media. His stories have appeared on NPR