As Cruz rises in presidential polls, Trump calls him 'maniac'

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Donald Trump Goes After Ted Cruz at Iowa Rally

WASHINGTON, Dec 13 (Reuters) -- Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump had a new target on Sunday, calling fellow White House contender Ted Cruz "a little bit of a maniac" as the U.S. senator surpassed him in an Iowa poll.

Cruz's dogged pursuit of conservative Iowa voters has paid off in the form of a 10-point lead over Trump in the state, which has one of the earliest presidential contests.

Unlike the other Republicans in the 2016 White House race, the U.S. senator from Texas has embraced Trump and avoided public criticism of the popular candidate.

Click through some of Donald Trump's most controversial tweets:

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As Cruz rises in presidential polls, Trump calls him 'maniac'
I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany
I would like to wish everyone, including all haters and losers (of which, sadly, there are many) a truly happy and enjoyable Memorial Day!
Just made the point at #NCGOPcon that "we have to protect our border & I think everyone here knows, nobody can build a wall like Trump!"
My twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.
China's Communist Party has now publicly praised Obama's reelection. They have never had it so good. Will own America soon.
While Jon Stewart is a joke, not very bright and totally overrated, some losers and haters will miss him & his dumb clown humor. Too bad!
Why is Obama playing basketball today? That is why our country is in trouble!
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
Remember, I said Derek don't sell your Trump World Tower apartment...its been lucky for you. The day after he sold it, he broke his foot.
I never fall for scams. I am the only person who immediately walked out of my ‘Ali G’ interview
.@cher--I don’t wear a “rug”—it’s mine. And I promise not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didn’t work.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
.@katyperry is no bargain but I don't like John Mayer--he dates and tells--be careful Katy (just watch!).
.@BetteMidler talks about my hair but I'm not allowed to talk about her ugly face or body --- so I won't. Is this a double standard?
It's Thursday. How much money did Barack Obama waste today on crony green energy projects?
Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!
Hey @realDonaldTrump - In case you're looking for that tweet you deleted .. I got it right here. http://t.co/a6F98q5xGU
This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice
Everyone knows I am right that Robert Pattinson should dump Kristen Stewart. In a couple of years, he will thank me. Be smart, Robert.
26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault
How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived
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But last week he questioned Trump's judgment at a private fundraiser, according to the New York Times, after the billionaire businessman advocated temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.

That got Trump's attention.

"I don't think he is qualified to be president," Trump said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I don't think he has the right temperament. I don't think he's got the right judgment. When you look at the way he has dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a, you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac -- you are never going to get things done that way."

Trump touted his ability to get along with liberals and conservatives and said that was the hallmark of the "world-class businessman" he is.

Watch more coverage:

The GOP's Donald Trump Problem

The front-runner, whose comments on Muslims drew widespread criticism but may not dent his lead in several national public opinion polls, made a sarcastic reference to Cruz's respectful treatment of him.

"He's been so nice to me. I mean I could be saying anything and he'd say, I agree I agree," Trump said on CNN's "State of the Union."

On the Fox program, he also criticized Cruz for talking about him behind his back.

READ MORE: New poll numbers show a surge for 1 GOP candidate

Cruz rose to 31 percent, above Trump's 21 percent, in an Iowa poll released on Saturday by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. That's a 21-point jump from October.

His rise came at the expense of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who dropped to third with 13 percent in the poll, while U.S. Senator Marco Rubio hovered at 10 percent. Jeb Bush was at 6 percent, a 1 percent increase from October.

Rubio, who has seen an uptick in his own poll standings in recent weeks, criticized his Senate colleague on defense spending, saying Cruz talked about carpet-bombing Islamic State while voting to cut the military budget.

Rubio was measured in his criticism of Trump on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying, "There's a lot we have a difference of opinion on, but we can't ignore that he's touched on some issues that people are concerned about."

Watch more coverage:

Rubio: Cruz Talks Tough, but Chooses Isolationism Over 'Strong National Defense'

Trump made the same point on Sunday, saying Americans are living in fear of being attacked. He linked his proposal to ban Muslims temporarily to his tough-on-immigration ideas, which included building a wall at the border with Mexico.

"One of the reasons I'm sitting here and one of the reasons I'm so high in the polls is because it all started with the borders," Trump told CNN. "I took much more heat when I said illegal immigration and southern borders and the wall and all of that than I ever took for this."

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