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Trump, Cruz Hold Back-To-Back Rallies Ahead Of South Carolina Primary


Let's turn now to the presidential primaries in South Carolina. That state is known for nasty politics, and the Republican contest is living up to the hype. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are leading many recent polls. And they have lobbed vicious attacks at each other. Trump has even threatened to sue Cruz. With just four days to go until the Republican South Carolina primary, they held back-to-back rallies this afternoon. NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now from the town of North Augusta where Trump spoke. Hi, Sarah.


SHAPIRO: Start with Ted Cruz. What has he been saying about Trump lately?

MCCAMMON: OK, so even though Trump is ahead in the polls, Cruz has been punching up at Trump, you know, questioning his conservative credentials and Trump's record on issues like abortion. Cruz is hoping that will resonate here in South Carolina where Republicans tend to be strongly conservative and antiabortion. Now that has really amped up with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend. Cruz is stressing now the importance of electing a president who will nominate conservative justices. Here's a Ted Cruz ad attacking Trump on this issue.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Life, marriage, religious liberty, the Second Amendment - we're just one Supreme Court justice away from losing them all.

TIM RUSSERT: Would President Trump ban partial-birth abortions?

DONALD TRUMP: Now, look, I'm - I'm very pro-choice.

MCCAMMON: So, Ari, that is archival footage of Donald Trump being interviewed by the late Tim Russert back in 1999 when he described himself as pro-choice. Of course, Trump now says he has evolved on that issue.

SHAPIRO: And what is Trump saying about Cruz these days?

MCCAMMON: Well, you know, Trump has a solid lead in the polls, but he should be at least a little concerned about Cruz because, you know, like in Iowa, Cruz has a strong organization and a track record of beating expectations. So Trump released a statement yesterday calling Cruz a liar and unhinged, unstable. Today, Trump held a rally here in North Augusta, S.C., and repeated those attacks.


TRUMP: What I'm telling you is true. I've never seen a human being lie so much. He lies about everything. He'll take your record - like I talked to you about Obamacare. He'll say Trump loves Obamacare. Loves - how do you fight that? The guy says he loves Obamacare - I hate Obamacare. It's going to be terminated. I just told you that. I tell - no, no...

MCCAMMON: Also, Ari, Trump is threatening to bring a lawsuit against Cruz, challenging his eligibility to run for president because he was born in Canada to an American mother. Trump is also calling on the Republican National Committee to intervene, saying if they don't they're in default of their pledge to him. And that, of course, is because Trump has said he will not wage a third-party run as long as he's treated fairly by the RNC. But he seems to be resurrecting that possibility.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Well, Trump is not only going after Cruz. He's also attacking some of the other candidates in the race. Give us a bit of a highlight reel.

MCCAMMON: So today, Trump said for everybody who thinks I can't beat the Democratic nominee, why aren't you beating me? And of course that was directed at the rest of his Republican rivals, especially pointed at the establishment. And, you know, Jeb Bush, for instance, has been trying to push through here in South Carolina, making a play for military voters. He's seen as popular with that group, as is his brother, George W. Bush. Even so, we have not seen a lot of movement for Bush in the polls. But that hasn't stopped Trump from attacking him relentlessly. He's been keeping up the argument that he made in the last debate that George W. Bush did not keep America safe, as Bush often says he did, and pointing out that 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. So no holds barred here in South Carolina, as you'd expect, and with four days left, Trump is looking pretty solid.

SHAPIRO: Thanks very much. That's NPR's Sarah McCammon speaking with us from South Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.