Republican presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump engaged in a heated debate Thursday night over whether Cruz's Canadian birthplace prevents him from being eligible to hold the office of president.
GOP debate moderator Neil Cavuto asked Cruz about the issue which Trump has sought to highlight in the 2016 race.
"You know, back in September my friend Donald said that he had his lawyers look at this from every which way. And there was no issue there. There was nothing there to this birther issue," Cruz said. "Now, since September, the Constitution hasn't changed. But, the poll numbers have. And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa."
"But the facts and the law here are really quite clear," the Texas senator continued. "Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural born citizen. If a soldier has a child abroad that child is a natural born citizen. That's why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama, was eligible to run for president. If an American missionary has a child abroad that child is a natural born citizen. That's why George Romney, Mitt's dad, was eligible to run for president even though he was born in Mexico."
"At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward, but I would note that the birther theories, that Donald has been relying on, some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil, but have two parents born on U.S. soil," Cruz added. "Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified, an interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified. Because Donald's mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized. Now Donald, on the issue of citizenship Donald, I'm not going to use your mother's birth against you."
"Because it wouldn't work," Trump quipped.
"You are an American, as is everyone on this stage," Cruz shot back. "I suggest we focus on who is best prepared to be commander in chief. Because that's the most important question facing the country."
Trump was then given an opportunity to respond.
"NBC and Wall Street Journal just came out with a poll. Headline, 'Trump way up, Cruz going down,'" Trump said, prompting boos from the audience.
Trump continued, "And in Iowa, as you know Ted, in the last three polls, I am beating you. So you shouldn't misrepresent how well you're doing with the polls. You don't have to say that. In fact, I was all for you until you started saying it."
Trump said that if he were to win and choose Cruz as his running mate the Democrats would file a lawsuit.
[sharequote align="right"]"And I'll tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump."[/sharequote]
"I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a suit," he said. "You have a big lawsuit over your head while you're running. And if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office?"
"Why are you raising this issue now?" Cavuto asked.
"Now, he's doing a little bit better," Trump bluntly answered. "It's true!"
Cruz took his chance to respond to the legal allegations.
"Well, listen. I have spent my entire life defending the U.S. Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court. And I'll tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump," he said.
"You don't have to! Take it Laurence Tribe! Take it from your professor," Trump fired back.
"The chances of any litigation proceeding or succeeding on this are zero," Cruz insisted.
"And I'll tell you what Donald," Cruz added. "You very kindly just a moment ago offered me the VP slot. I'll tell you what, if this all works out I am happy to consider you as VP and if you happen to be right you could get the top job at the end of the day."
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