Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took a stab at Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) speech last week to the Conservative Political Action Conference, with Paul noting on Fox News Sunday that he doesn’t like to “drag people down” when he speaks.
“You want to lose elections, stand for nothing,” Cruz told the CPAC crowd Thursday morning, detailing years of congressional defeats with the 2010 Tea Party rout as the exception. “…And then of course, all of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Now look, those are good men. They’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction; when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”
Paul was asked by Fox host Chris Wallace if it was “over the line for Ted Cruz to go after a war hero like Bob Dole.”
“You know, I guess I would just say that everybody has their own style. My style is that I stand for things and I don’t think people question whether I stand for principle, but I don’t spend a lot of time trying to drag people down,” Paul responded. “I’ve been very complimentary of Mitt Romney. I like him and think he’s a great guy. Can we get the party bigger? There’s always ways to get the party bigger particularly when we don’t win. I realize the party has to be bigger, not smaller.”
The growing 2016 rivalry between the two senators should only mount with Paul’s victory in the CPAC straw poll and Cruz’s victory in the Senate Conservatives Fund straw poll, which the SCF strategically released Saturday a few minutes before the CPAC poll was unveiled.
John McCain told MSNBC that Cruz “can say what he wants to about me and he can say anything he wants to, I think, about Mitt. Mitt is capable of taking it.”
“But when he throws Bob Dole in there, I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country?” McCain said. “Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle. I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole, because that’s — that has crossed a line that, to me, is — leaves the realm of politics and discourse that we should have in America.”
The Arizona Republican said he talked to Cruz on the Senate floor after the speech and told the Texas Republican the same thing.
“If you want to, you know, say things that are critical of me and Mitt Romney, that’s fine,” McCain said. “My beloved Bob Dole, as you know, is not in the best of health and he doesn’t need that in the twilight of his years.”
Dole, 90, released a statement saying “Senator Cruz needs to check the record before passing judgment.”
“I was one of President Reagan’s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative,” Dole added.
“Can’t we honor Bob Dole without dragging him into this Tea Party versus non-Tea Party?” McCain continued this morning on CNN. “It’s just — it’s just totally inappropriate and I don’t think that Bob Dole deserves it. He deserves our honor and our respect now.”