IOWA FALLS, Iowa | Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton both called for lowering the temperature in the presidential primary race Monday, even as their campaigns and supporters kept up their attacks with a week to go until the Iowa caucuses.
Campaigning at a pizza place, Cruz passed up an opportunity to take a swipe at Donald Trump, who has been hitting Cruz as the Texas senator has climbed in the polls. Until recently, Trump and Cruz had avoided direct confrontation on the campaign trail, but Trump’s description of his opponent as a “nasty guy” seemed to invite a response.
“I will not engage in insults,” Cruz said in Manchester, Iowa. “I will not engage in personal attacks. Donald has changed how he has approached me. He is now insulting me every day. He can do that. That is his prerogative. I do not intend to respond in kind.”
But behind the scenes, Cruz’s campaign was on the air with an ad assailing Trump over his business practices, while a super PAC supporting Cruz unleashed its own ads criticizing Trump. Cruz said he would “continue to sing Donald’s praises personally” while pointing out policy differences with the real estate mogul.
Trump wasn’t holding back. He took to Twitter to call Cruz a “nervous wreck” who was “dropping like a rock” in the GOP race.
Cruz’s reluctance to bash his opponent too directly reflects the delicate balance both he and Trump are trying to strike. Even as they work to take each other down, neither wants to alienate the other’s supporters.
Clinton, campaigning before a Jewish organization in Des Moines, said she hoped for a “cooling off” of some of the heated rhetoric in the presidential campaign. Without singling out any candidate or party, she said politicians should be “under some level of scrutiny for what they say.”
Clinton and Bernie Sanders, locked in an unexpectedly tight race, planned to deliver their final-stretch pitches Monday evening in a televised town hall forum. Clinton’s campaign spent the day working to revive a debate about gun control, building on her previous criticism of Sanders for backing legislation granting gun manufacturers legal immunity.
Adding a new flavor of uncertainty was word over the weekend that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering an independent bid, eyeing an opportunity if Trump and Sanders should end up as the Republican and Democratic nominees. Trump told CNN he would “love to” face Bloomberg, insisting he would win.
“We used to be friends. I guess we’re not friends anymore,” Trump said of his fellow New Yorker.
Cruz picked up an endorsement Monday from Rick Perry, the former governor of his home state, who dropped out of the presidential race last year. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also won, if not an official endorsement, a glowing introduction from the freshman Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a popular figure in the Iowa GOP who called him “near and dear” to her heart.
With most of the Republicans circling each other in Iowa, Chris Christie and John Kasich were searching for votes in New Hampshire, where the GOP base is friendlier to more mainstream, socially moderate candidates. Speaking to reporters in Newmarket, Kasich seemed to capture the mood of all of the candidates many months into a grueling campaign.
“I think there’s so many undecided people, and I wish they were all committed to me,” Kasich said. “What am I not doing right?”
Josh Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer in Washington, Julie Pace and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Scott Bauer in Maquoketa, Iowa, and Kathleen Ronayne in Newmarket, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.