Speaking to a small crowd at a New York City fundraiser, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) questioned whether Donald Trump has the "judgment" to be commander in chief and said that he would not be comfortable with Trump having his "finger on the button."
According to attendees of the fundraiser who spoke to the New York Times, Cruz said that the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris have "given a seriousness to this race" that makes the "question of judgment" a crucial one.
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Inside a conference room in a Madison Avenue office, with about 70 people pressed around a table, Mr. Cruz gave a candid assessment of the race, lumping Mr. Trump with another candidate whose supporters the Texas senator hopes to poach, Ben Carson, according to two people present for the remarks.
"Both of them I like and respect," said Mr. Cruz, according to one attendee, who requested anonymity to describe what happened at a private event. "I don’t believe either one of them is going to be our president."
Mr. Cruz described both campaigns as having a "natural arch" with gravity "pulling them down" now. Mr. Carson’s descent, he added, has been faster.
But he added, according to a second attendee, "You look at Paris, you look at San Bernardino, it’s given a seriousness to this race, that people are looking for: Who is prepared to be a commander in chief? Who understands the threats we face?"
He went on: "Who am I comfortable having their finger on the button? Now that’s a question of strength, but it’s also a question of judgment. And I think that is a question that is a challenging question for both of them."
Cruz made clear this week that he disagrees with Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, but also that he still has no plans to engage in a war of personal insults with Trump.
"The reason why I won’t get engaged in personal insults and attacks, I don’t think the American people care about a bunch of politicians bickering like schoolchildren," said Cruz. "I’m grateful Donald Trump is running."