Ted Cruz branded Donald Trump a “snivelling coward” as the feud between the Republican presidential contenders over their wives took a nastier turn.
After an earlier and vague threat to “spill the beans” about Heidi Cruz, Mr Trump stoked the spat on Twitter when he retweeted side-by-side images of Mr Cruz’s wife, with an unflattering grimace, and his wife, Melania, in a glamorous pose. “No need to spill the beans,” said the caption. “The images are worth a thousand words.”
Mr Cruz, campaigning in Wisconsin, was livid. “Leave Heidi the hell alone,” Mr Cruz said, speaking through reporters to Trump. “Donald does seem to have an issue with women,” he said. “Donald doesn’t like strong women. Strong women scare Donald.”
Mr Trump was set off this week when a group that opposes him released an ad before the Utah presidential contest raising questions about the propriety of Melania Trump becoming first lady. The ad showed a provocative, decade-old magazine photo of her when she was a model and before she married Mr Trump.
Mr Trump wrongly attributed the ad to the Cruz campaign and warned on Twitter: “Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”
Mr Trump has a substantial lead in the delegate chase for the Republican nomination. Mr Cruz has a stiff challenge trying to catch him in remaining races and may only have a shot at the nomination if the contest spills into the summer convention.
On the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton warned that “hot rhetoric and demagoguery” can be offensive and dangerous.
Her remarks at a round-table discussion on keeping communities safe from radicalisation and terrorism echoed criticism she made a day earlier of Mr Trump and his Republican rivals when she warned that voices that could bring communities together can be “drowned out by politics, by partisanship”.
Mrs Clinton also said she would mount an aggressive campaign across California and compete to win over “every voter in it”.
Her remarks in Los Angeles came a day after rival Bernie Sanders predicted he would claim the nation’s most populous state in its 7 June primary.
Mrs Clinton also appeared to be looking beyond the Democratic primaries. She called California an “exclamation point” on the primary season, but adds that it’s “important to get ready and organised for the fall election”.