LAS VEGAS — For a few days, it looked like one of the most curious alliances in the GOP presidential race was in peril — that of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Word had gotten out that the Texas senator, who had previously refused to criticize the billionaire, had raised questions about Trump's "judgment" at a fundraiser. When audio surfaced, Trump went on the offensive, first suggesting Cruz was beholden to the oil industry, then saying Cruz was not qualified to be president due to his temperament.
"You look at the way he’s dealt with the Senate where he goes in there, frankly, you know, like a little bit of a maniac," Trump said in a TV interview that aired Sunday.
By the end of the fifth GOP debate Tuesday night, it was as if nothing had happened. Given the opportunity to criticize Cruz for his fundraiser comments, Trump took a pass, telling the moderators: "He has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it."
After the debate, Trump suggested he had spared Cruz because the senator had repented enough for his comments. Cruz has called the New York Times story about the remarks "misleading," insisting that he was not attacking Trump but simply discussing how every candidate should be assessed on their judgment.
"I was very happy to see he backed off his statement that he made" at the fundraiser, Trump told reporters Tuesday night. "I have a lot of respect for him. He's a good man."
In an interview after the debate, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said nothing had changed between Trump calling Cruz a "maniac" and the debate, adding that the two candidates have had a "great relationship for a long time."
Is their truce still intact, though?
"I don't know about an alliance," Lewandowski said. "Everyone on that stage wants to be the president of the United States. I think what you have tonight is a couple of individuals who fundamentally agree that Washington is broken, and they have their own vision to change that, and that's what came across on the stage tonight."
Trump nonetheless had a warning for Cruz after declining to go after him on the debate stage: "You better not attack."
Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters