EXCLUSIVE: Cruz says attacks show that other campaigns are 'panicking'

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Ted Cruz Not Getting Drawn Into 'Muck' of Personal Attacks

BOONE, Iowa -- Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz dismissed attacks against his record and his personal style Monday, suggesting that his political rivals are "panicking" as the Iowa caucuses approach.

"Listen, politicians behave a certain way when they are panicking," he told NBC in an exclusive interview aboard his campaign bus. "And they engage in attacks, they engage in personal attacks, that's human nature. I understand that. I am not going to get drawn into that muck."

SEE ALSO: GOP presidential candidate still dreams of 'Mitt 2016,' says Romney

Cruz has increasingly come under fire from fellow GOP candidates as he has risen in primary polls. On Monday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio alluded to Cruz's foreign policy stances, knocking "isolationist candidates more passionate about weakening our intelligence capabilities than about destroying our enemies." Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum released a campaign ad mocking Cruz's infamous reading of the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham" during a filibuster-like speech on the Senate floor in 2013. And last month, Donald Trump appeared to question Cruz's religious faith based on his Cuban ancestry, telling a crowd in Des Moines that "I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba."

Cruz demurred when asked by NBC News whether Trump's statement constitutes "panicking."

"I'm going to keep the focus on the issues that matter," he said.

Nine facts you should know about Ted Cruz:

10 PHOTOS
9 Facts you should know about Ted Cruz
See Gallery
EXCLUSIVE: Cruz says attacks show that other campaigns are 'panicking'

1) His legal name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

(Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

2) His wife Heidi has worked at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. The company told CNN Monday she will go on unpaid leave for the duration of his campaign. They met while they worked on George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.​

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

3) He won his Senate seat in 2010 without ever having been elected to public office before. Prior to that he had been appointed to the office of the Solicitor General in Texas.  ​

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

4) He had a minor brush with the law in 1987 when he received a ticket for underage possession of alcohol as a senior in high school. ​

(Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

5) He has two Ivy League degrees: an undergraduate degree from Princeton, and a law degree from Harvard.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

6) He has kept a painting of himself in his office -- a picture of him as a 32-year-old arguing a case before the Supreme Court.

(AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

7) He played a significant role in the government shutdown of 2013, leading a chorus of Republicans who refused to vote for any plan that kept the federal government running that did not also defund Obamacare. Cruz spend nearly 24 straight hours defending his position, including at one point reading the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham."

(AP Photo/Senate TV)

8) His father (left) fled Cuba for the United States, worked in the oil industry and eventually became a pastor. He has made headlines for somewhat inflammatory statements, including telling an audience that President Obama should be sent "back to Kenya."

(Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

9) He doesn't believe in climate change, an issue many Democrats have lampooned him for, in part because he leads the Senate's Space, Science, and Competitiveness Committee which oversees NASA.​ During a recent appearance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" Cruz said "Debates on this should follow science and should follow data. Many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem because the science doesn’t back them up."

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"We are seeing the entire world on fire, radical Islamic terrorism on the rise, where we are abandoning Israel, we are abandoning our allies," he added. "What the American people are interested in is not a bunch of silly attacks from Washington politicians. They want real solutions to the problems in this country."

Cruz has steadfastly avoided attacking Trump, who remains the GOP front-runner nationally even as the Texas senator himself has risen to a top slot in the all-important state of Iowa.

But he has not been shy about differentiating himself from fellow Sen. Marco Rubio. On Monday, a super PAC supporting Cruz released an ad contrasting the severity of various foreign policy conundrums with Rubio's recent jokes about picking his fantasy football team.

Cruz said Monday that Rubio is "very well liked in Washington," a comment clearly meant as a dig at the Florida senator's relative popularity within the Washington establishment.

"I think what voters are looking for is someone who honors the commitments that he made to the men and women who have elected us. Someone who is a leader. Someone who has demonstrated that he will take on not just Democrats but leaders in our own party. Someone who will take on the Washington cartel," Cruz said. "And I like Marco but my record is markedly different, not just from Marco's but from every candidate on that debate stage."

See Ted Cruz on the campaign trail:

41 PHOTOS
Ted Cruz on the campaign trail
See Gallery
EXCLUSIVE: Cruz says attacks show that other campaigns are 'panicking'
STAFFORD-MARCH 1: Ted Cruz holds his victory rally at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas. On the left is his wife, Heidi and their two daughters and on the right is the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick. (Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands on stage during a Super Tuesday night event in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, greets attendees with his wife Heidi Cruz and children during a campaign event in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Local Captions *** Ted Cruz; Heidi Cruz
US Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Dallas, Texas on February 29, 2016 one day before the 'Super Tuesday' primaries. Americans in a dozen states head to the polls for a slew of primaries and caucuses March 1 on what is considered the most important day of the presidential nominations calendar. / AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, arrives for a campaign rally near the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Ga., February 27, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) greets people during a campaign rally at the Mach Industrial Group on February 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The process to select the next Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates continues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) arrives at a campaign event at the Gateway Hotel on January 30, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 31: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to Iowa voters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds January 31, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The U.S. presidential election kicks off tomorrow with the state's caucuses. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C) greets an audience member as he is introduced at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Freedom Country Store, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Freedom, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Washington, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Shown is Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shadow as he speaks during a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Hollis, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Delaney Anne tries to make a selfie with Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Tilton, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, campaigns at Penny's Diner in Missouri Valley, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 17: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Siena Community Center on December 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two days after participating in the fifth GOP presidential debate, Cruz began a swing through eight Super Tuesday states in five days. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall meeting at Furman University on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, during the Rising Tide Summit at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to supporters on the Statehouse steps in Concord, N.H., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, after filing papers to be on the nation's earliest presidential primary ballot. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leads a moment of silence for victims of the San Bernardino shooting prior to his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Candidates spoke and took questions from Jewish leaders and activists. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shops for jewelry from ChildVoice International with his daughters Catherine, left, and Caroline during a campaign stop at the Deerfield Fair Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Deerfield, N.H. ChildVoice International is a non-profit organization seeking to restore the voices of children silenced by war.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, speaks with fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a rally opposing the Iran nuclear deal outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. A revolt among U.S. House Republicans delayed action on the Iran nuclear deal today as some members insisted they aren't bound by a Sept. 17 deadline in their efforts to kill the agreement. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, center, right, posses for a photo with Timothy Lewis after a campaign event at the Stockyards in Forth Worth, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Photographed through attendees, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Americans for Prosperity Road to Reform event Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 21: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to supporters at his Religious Liberty Rally on August 21, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Earlier in the day Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) visited and spoke to guests at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, eats a pork chop at the Iowa Pork Producers tent during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Republican presidential candidate Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 8: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spends a few moments with his daughter Catherine before the start of the Cruz bus tour rally in a field behind Sprayberry's BBQ in Newnan, Ga., on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, awaits for the elevator doors to close as he arrives in the basement of the Capitol, July 29, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a Anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a Senate deal to vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood before the Senate goes into recess in August. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters following a rare Sunday Senate session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Senior Senate Republicans lined up Sunday to rebuke Cruz for attacking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an extraordinary display of intraparty division played out live on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 23: Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks out against the nuclear deal with Iran during a demonstration that was interrupted by counter protestors in Lafayette Park across the the street from the White House in Washington, DC on July 23, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, July 18, 2015. The sponsor, The FAMiLY LEADER, is a 'pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life organization which champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
AMES, IA - JULY 18: Republican presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz of Texas fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. According to the organizers the purpose of The Family Leadership Summit is to inspire, motivate, and educate conservatives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands outside while waiting to speak during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015. The annual Faith & Freedom Coalition Policy Conference gives top-tier presidential contenders as well as long shots a chance to compete for the large evangelical Christian base in the crowded Republican primary contest. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participates in a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The hearing is billed as 'Rewriting The Law, Examining the Process That Led to the ObamaCare Subsidy Rule'. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a press conference at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Seneca, South Carolina, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Cruz says Donald Trump sent his lawyers cease and desist letters over a Cruz campaign ad that portrays Trump as pro-choice saying that if the Cruz campaign doesn't pull ad, they'll see immediate legal action to prevent the continued broadcast of this ad, according to Cruz. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Cruz told NBC News that the increasing intensity of attacks on his campaign signals his success in the crowded GOP field.

"Two weeks ago, just about every Republican candidate was attacking Donald Trump. Today just about every Republican candidate is attacking me," he said. "That seems to be an indication that something has changed in the race."

Cruz is embarking on a 28-stop tour of Iowa over the next six days, looking to seal the deal with four weeks until the state takes the first stab at picking the GOP's presidential nominee.

Cruz's stops will take him to rural pockets of the state in his quest to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties before the Feb. 1 caucus.

For the first time last week, Trump acknowledged to a crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that he may lose the state's contest, saying he may be "setting myself up" for a letdown if he were to lose the caucus.

Rubio -- a distant third -- completed a multi-day bus tour last week, stepping up an up his ground presence to make a late push in the state.

Cruz told NBC that his campaign does not view Iowa - or any of the early primary states - as a must-win, but that the team will fight hard for wins in each place.

"We are going to compete hard and try to win in every state but we don't believe there is any state that is a must win for us," he said.

Cruz also shared with NBC News the challenges of staying connected to his family, especially his two young daughters, who are seven and five.

"The girls just got an iPad and they are very excited, so they just learned how to FaceTime," he said, saying that his absence from his daughters is the "hardest thing" he's experienced during the campaign.

"We do lots of phone calls and FaceTime but it's not the same."

More from NBC News:
The Sprint to Iowa and New Hampshire Starts Now
First Trump TV Ad Highlights Muslim Ban, Border Wall
Trump Takes a Different Tack as Protesters Punctuate Event

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners