Sen. Ted Cruz is cozying up to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in a cynical ploy to court the billionaire's supporters should Trump drop out of the race for the White House, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal charged Tuesday.
In an interview with the Tribune, Jindal said Cruz has "enabled" Trump, who has a history of liberal stands, by refusing to criticize him, instead cultivating a chummy relationship with the New York developer. The Texas GOP senator has praised Trump for drawing attention to illegal immigration, headlined a rally with him against President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and repeatedly passed on opportunities to attack him.
"Other candidates have been more bold and more explicit in calling out Donald Trump," Jindal said. "He's not a conservative. Donald Trump's for higher taxes. He's for socialized medicine.
"Other candidates have been more than willing to make that case, and I think Ted has been much more silent. And I think the reason's pretty transparent. I think he's hopeful that those anti-establishment votes will go from Donald Trump to him, but there's a point at which you've got to put principle above political expedience, and I think this is one of those cases."
Jindal traced the tipping point to comments Trump made on "60 Minutes" last month when asked how he would fix the U.S. health care system as president. In his response, Trump said he would "take care of everybody" and the "government's gonna pay for it," raising the prospect of the kind of arrangement that is anathema to the GOP base.
"If President Obama said this, we'd be all over criticizing this," Jindal said. "It shouldn't be any different simply because it's Donald Trump and simply because Ted Cruz hopes to get his voters."
While several GOP candidates have sharply questioned Trump's conservative credentials, Jindal has been the only one to incorporate Cruz in his criticism of the months-long frontrunner. In a CNN op-ed last month, Jindal wrote that Cruz is "clinging to Trump like a limpet to an oil tanker, hoping to suck up his votes when Trump eventually sinks." The Louisiana governor revived the attack in another op-ed Thursday, writing for Fox News that Cruz has been "complicit" in Trump's inconsistencies.
Cruz's campaign declined to comment on Jindal's remarks, but the senator has emphatically justified his refusal to criticize Trump and other rivals as an effort to avoid "Republican-on-Republican violence." That explanation did not fly Tuesday with Jindal, who pointed to Cruz's decision in July to call Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar. "He's not been shy about going after other Republicans," Jindal said of Cruz.
Cruz and his aides have made no bones about looking to lure Trump backers, maintaining they are working for the support of every voter, even those already aligned with other candidates.
Jindal has been polling near the bottom of national surveys, and his full-throated attacks on Trump have been viewed as an attempt to breathe new life into his campaign. He's received a somewhat fresh round of attention since a recent poll showed him pulling even with Cruz in Iowa, a state both candidates are taking seriously and where Trump continues to top the GOP field in most surveys.