With caucus around the corner, Cruz fires top spokesperson


With Nevada the next Republican battleground, Texas Senator Ted Cruz did some housecleaning this morning in Las Vegas. He fired his communications director.

Cruz spoke to a crowded room of reporters before his Las Vegas rally at the Durango Hills Community Center.

"Yesterday a staffer from our campaign sent out a tweet that indicated Marco saying something negative about the Bible. The news story was false," Cruz said.

"This morning I asked for Rick Tyler's resignation," Cruz continued. "I have made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards of integrity."

"It is why, when other campaigns attack us personally, impugn my integrity or attack my character, I don't respond in kind," Cruz told reporters.

It's the latest wrinkle in the GOP fight that has now become hand-to-hand combat between frontrunner Donald Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Cruz.

In tomorrow's Nevada GOP caucus, polls show Trump with a double-digit lead, with a tight race for second between the two senators.

Cruz's opponents have claimed the Cruz campaign has been playing dirty. The Rubio campaign responded today to the firing in the Cruz camp.

"There is a culture in the Cruz campaign from top to bottom that no lie is too big and no trick too dirty," said Rubio Communications Director Alex Conant. "Rick did the right thing by apologizing to Marco. It's high time for Ted Cruz to do the right thing and stop the lies."

I asked Cruz about the firing after today's rally.

"Well, listen, I'm sure there will be people that try to make political mischief with it, but there's a reason that Donald Trump and Marco Rubio engage in relentless personal attacks," Cruz said. "They don't want to defend their records."

Rubio says Cruz flip-flops. Trump says Cruz lies. Cruz says his opponents are fudging their positions.

The drama before the caucus underscores a party establishment that still hasn't embraced Trump, and that still hasn't found a consistent opponent who could stop Trump's momentum.

Marco Rubio, who spent the day campaigning in Northern Nevada, has Las Vegas roots and more family here than he does in Florida. Rubio has rolled out a series of Nevada endorsements, including Senator Dean Heller, who had been backing Jeb Bush before Bush suspended his campaign after South Carolina. Cruz, meanwhile, has the support of conservative star Adam Laxalt, Nevada's Attorney General. He's also picked up the support of former GOP candidate Rand Paul's senior Nevada advisor, Carl Bunce.

"I think you're seeing some late momentum pushing for Rubio," says Ryan Erwin, senior Nevada advisor to the now-defunct Jeb Bush campaign. "I think Marco is going to perform well tomorrow. I think Donald Trump is still positioned to do very well and certainly the favorite to win, and I think Ted Cruz is closing strong," Erwin added.

Cruz knows his fate in Nevada tomorrow hinges on turnout.

"I want to ask every one of you to bring nine other people tomorrow night - you got 30 hours to find nine other people," Cruz told a crowded gymnasium of supporters. Victory is imperative, he says.

"If we keep going in the same direction, we risk doing irreparable damage to the greatest country in the world," Cruz said.

Polls show Trump in the lead. So what, says Cruz.

"I remember a couple weeks ago all the pundits said there was no way we could win the state of Iowa," he told me. "They said over-and-over Donald Trump was going to win. And then the voters came out on election night and we saw historic turnoutand we ended up winning, not just winning by a big margin, but earning more votes than any Republican has earned in the history of the Iowa caucuses," Cruz said.

As for today's campaign flap, no biggie, claims Cruz Nevada Chairman Adam Laxalt. "I don't think that people are paying attention to things like that," he told me.

Not Sandy Watkins, who came to today's Las Vegas rally. Count her all-in for Cruz.

"He stands behind our country. He wants us to get back on the right track, and he's for the people, and he has good morals," she said.

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