Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and real-estate mogul Donald Trump -- each running for the Republican presidential nomination as anti-establishment outsiders -- are cultivating an already chummy relationship at this early stage of the 2016 race and will huddle Wednesday in New York.
The meeting will take place at Trump Tower, the gleaming Manhattan skyscraper where Trump has for decades managed his business endeavors, according to knowledgeable Republicans. The building now serves as the headquarters for Trump’s national political operation.
The conclave is the latest sign of budding solidarity between the contenders, who have been friendly for several years and who have put forceful critiques of illegal immigration and their party’s establishment at the center of their bids.
In recent weeks, Cruz has defended remarks Trump made on immigrants over the past month that have drawn rebukes from leading Democrats and Republicans. Trump said in his announcement speech that when "Mexico sends its people," it sends people who are "bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
While other Republicans called Trump’s words "offensive and inaccurate" (Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida) or "extraordinarily ugly" (former Florida governor Jeb Bush), Cruz praised Trump as someone who is "terrific" and "speaks the truth."
Asked about Cruz in an interview over the weekend, Trump told The Washington Post, "I really respect him for saying what he did."
Earlier this month on CNN, Trump said, "I shouldn't say this because, I assume, he's an opponent, but the fact is he was very brave in coming out."
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Cruz has previously met with the mogul at Trump Tower, mostly during fundraising swings through New York.
Republicans close to Cruz said the first-term senator is intent on staying cozy with Trump in spite of the billionaire’s controversial persona, believing that their overlapping messages and support make them fellow-travelers in a crowded field.
Should Trump leave the primary contest at some point, Cruz is also angling for his endorsement or at least lingering goodwill among the conservatives who have rallied to Trump’s side as he has revived the hard-line wing of the GOP on immigration, the Republicans said.
Republicans acquainted with Trump’s circle said the feeling is mutual. They said Trump is content to form an informal bond with Cruz -- the son of a Cuban immigrant -- and sees him as an accompanying voice on immigration who could help him to fend off attacks. The first GOP debate is set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland.
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Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Trump and asked him to tone things down. It appears that he has ignored that advice.
In a fiery speech delivered to thousands on Saturday in Phoenix, Trump declared: "These are people that shouldn’t be in our country. They flow in like water."
And on Wednesday, he will meet with Cruz, best known for his role in the 2013 government shutdown and his congressional showdowns over illegal immigration.