Marco Rubio builds momentum; Ted Cruz struggles

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Marco Rubio amassed increasing support for his candidacy while Ted Cruz’s campaign showed signs of struggle as Republican presidential candidates crisscrossed Nevada on Monday on the final day of campaigning ahead of the state’s GOP caucuses.

Cruz told reporters Monday he has asked his campaign spokesman, Rick Tyler, to resign for tweeting a story that falsely alleged Rubio insulted the Bible.

“We are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate for president,” he said, calling Tyler “a good man” and noting that he deleted the tweet once he discovered it was false.

Tyler did not return telephone, text or email messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

It’s not the first time that Cruz’s campaign has been accused by rivals of using questionable tactics. Cruz apologized to GOP hopeful Ben Carson earlier this month after his campaign promoted a news story suggesting that Carson was getting out of the race. Cruz’s campaign also has acknowledged creating a website that used a computer program to create a fake picture of Rubio shaking hands with President Barack Obama.

Speaking during a campaign stop in Elko, Nev., earlier Monday, Rubio criticized Cruz for the incident and asked whether Cruz would fire anyone involved.

“It’s every single day something comes out of the Cruz campaign that’s deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith,” Rubio told reporters when asked about the incident. “I guess one of their spokespersons apologized, and I accept their apology.”

Republican front-runner Donald Trump lashed out at Cruz over Twitter on Monday, saying that Cruz “has now apologized to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks. No wonder he has lost Evangelical support!” He reiterated his calls for disqualifying Cruz because of “his fraudulent win in Iowa.”

Trump was scheduled to have two rallies in Nevada – one in Elko and another later in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, establishment heavyweights continued to back Rubio, with many saying they see him as the candidate who can unite a disharmonious Republican Party. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch were the latest to endorse Rubio.

Former Sen. Bob Dole told ABC News on Monday that he, too, had been backing Bush, but he’s now supporting Rubio.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who finished second in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, won the endorsement of Tom Ridge, a former Homeland Security secretary and Pennsylvania governor.

Kasich’s campaign says Ridge is signing on as a national co-chairman.

Democratic presidential hopefuls coming off a tight battle for Nevada kicked off the week on opposite ends of the country Monday. Hillary Clinton was fundraising in northern California, while Bernie Sanders had a rally in Massachusetts, another Super Tuesday state. South Carolina votes in the next Democratic primary Saturday.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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