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RUSH: Now, in the Republican primary, the gloves are coming off from Trump and Cruz. Both campaigns are starting to go after each other now. And it’s interesting to note that the Drive-Bys all said this wouldn’t happen unless somebody got the go-ahead from me here at talk radio. Remember that? What happened was that Trump goes after Cruz, but he did so using liberal language.

I forget the specifics of what it was, but he attacked Cruz the way liberal Democrats would. And at that point I said, “Hey, Donald, that’s not good. If you want to get Cruz, go ahead, but it’s not gonna help you to do that way. Not that way.” And Trump backed off. And so the media started running around saying, ‘Well, isn’t it interesting? Limbaugh gets mad at Trump and Trump backs down. So is it gonna take Limbaugh approving of Trump’s behavior before he gets back into gear?” Now Trump and Cruz are going at each other without regard for what’s being said about them here on talk radio or anywhere else.

Which is fine.

It’s the natural evolution of a political competition.

The two front-runners are going after each other. Now, the way it is manifesting itself now, RealClearPolitics has a story here that the Cruz campaign is making phone calls in primary states that are the equivalent of testing various lines or criticisms of Trump. They’re running ’em by people on the phone to get a reaction to it. Here’s how the Real Clear Politics story begins: “Although Ted Cruz has insisted he will not personally attack Donald Trump as the race for the Republican nomination heats up, supporters of [Cruz] appear to be weighing how best to target Trump in Iowa, where Cruz holds a narrow lead.

“A message-testing phone call in Iowa on Monday floated seven distinct lines of attack against the national frontrunner, asking whether each one would make the listener more or less likely to support him. Kedron Bardwell, a political science professor at Simpson College in Iowa, received the call and recorded detailed notes, which he provided to RealClearPolitics. One potential attack noted Trump’s recent remark ‘to a Christian audience in Iowa that he has “never asked God for forgiveness.”‘”

So apparently what’s happening is that Cruz people are calling people in Iowa and say: Hey, Donald Trump said to a Christian audience in Iowa that he has “never asked God for forgiveness.” Does that make you more or less likely to support Trump? “Another [question] depicted Trump as ‘a New York liberal pretending to have conservative values.'” Cruz has even gone public with that. The other day he said, “Look, everybody knows Donald Trump, uh… uh… is a New York,” and he didn’t characterize New York what, but the message is clear: New York is liberal.

“Two potential attacks targeted the billionaire businessman’s loyalty to the GOP — one noting that he had changed his party ID, the other mentioning his Reform Party candidacy for president in 1999/2000 and his prior financial support for Democrats. Three other attacks cited Trump’s stances on eminent domain, abortion and single-payer health care, respectively.” In other words, the Cruz people are calling people up saying, “Do you know Donald Trump, at one time, supported single-payer health care?” “Do you know that Donald Trump, at one time, was pro-choice?” “Do you know, at one time and even now, Donald Trump believes in eminent domain?”

“Uh, what’s that?”

“Well, that’s where the government can come take your property and pay you a little bit for it.” So the theory is the Cruz people making these phone calls and gauging the response on the phones in advance of preparing attack ads against Trump. So for all of you who have called here or written me (sometimes nice, sometimes caustic) e-mails accusing me of giving Trump a pass on the premise that Trump’s not a conservative and I am, and why am I not calling him on it, why am I letting him get away with it, “Why are you supporting Trump? Trump’s not a conservative,” blah, blah, one variation or another on that — the answer has always been, “Don’t worry.

“The candidates will take care of that in due course, at some point.” It’s been a hands-off toward Trump now, for all the obvious reasons. I mean, Trump fires back when you hit him, for one thing. The other thing is there are still people who think Trump’s not gonna make it. There are some who think that Trump’s supporters are not gonna caucus. They’re not gonna show up and actually vote. There are some who think that after Iowa and New Hampshire, that Trump actually isn’t gonna win any of them, and when that happens, the whole dynamic is changed.

The long version of the story is that Trump may end up getting out of this, and he’s got a lot of voters out there. “So I don’t want to be too hard on Trump,” some of these candidates are saying, “because I want his voters if he doesn’t make it.” There’s all kinds of reasons why people aren’t criticizing Trump. But with every day that goes by that Trump doesn’t get out, with every day that goes by that Trump does not weaken, with every day that goes by that nothing changes, well, then the people that want what Trump wants are gonna start hitting him.

It appears the Cruz campaign is getting ready for a… I don’t want to call it “ultimate assault,” but getting ready for an ad campaign that is actually going to focus on the fact that Trump may not be a conservative. Some of you people supporting Trump may think he is, but he’s not. Now, I don’t know for sure that’s happening, but that’s what this RealClearPolitics story sets up as a possibility. It says here, “The message-testing call comes as the race to win Iowa has apparently narrowed to Cruz and Trump, both of whom lead Marco Rubio,” this story is from yesterday, “by double digits in the RealClearPolitics polling average.”

Washington Examiner. This gives a different side of it. This story says, “Republican front-runner Donald Trump captures 45% of the GOP vote in a three-way race with Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio,” this is Paul Bedard writing. He says it’s “the latest sign that party voters are ready to accept the outspoken real estate developer as their 2016 nominee. A new YouGov.com poll finds that in the three-way race, a potential situation after the first several primaries, Trump’s support from those backing other candidates surges equally with Cruz and Rubio.”

See, this is another factor. There are going to be people dropping out of this, after Iowa, after New Hampshire. Some of these people sitting out there with one, two, four, five, six, they’re gonna drop out. They’ve got voters. Where are they gonna go? That’s what this poll attempted to find out, and they’re shocked. The conventional wisdom was that Trump was not going to get any more support than what he already has. They say, “Well, if Huckabee gets out or Christie…” I’m not predicting anything, just mentioning names.

When Jindal, Fiorina, any of them, when they get out, the theory has been those voters are gonna go somewhere else but not to Trump. They might go to Cruz, they might go to Rubio, they might not go to Jeb, but they’re not gonna go to Trump. This poll shows, “Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah! A lot of people are gonna get to Trump,” and so the upshot of this (and this cannot be good news to the Republican establishment) is that when this thing gets narrowed to three ways, Donald Trump still cleans up. When it’s Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, Trump’s still in the lead.

In other words, he doesn’t get watered down.

The theory was that Trump would get watered down as people leave ’cause their supporters would go elsewhere — Rubio, Cruz. But some of them go to Trump and keep him where he is. I guarantee you, the establishment is gonna lose its mind when they find this out. See, this is another thing the establishment has been hoping would happen, that when some of these other candidates drop out, that others would strengthen but Trump wouldn’t gain. Because they’ve been convince themselves that Trump’s support has maxed, that Trump’s peak has happened, that he can’t get any more popular, that if he were gonna have more support, he would already have it.

“People supporting other candidates are not gonna go to Trump when their candidates drop out.”

Not true, apparently.

So they’re gonna be beside themselves — and they clearly are on the way even as we speak.

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