Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, speaking Tuesday in Nashville. (Mark Zaleski/AP)

During a campaign swing through Alabama, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) defended the state's controversial decision to shutter 31 offices that provided driver's licenses -- documents now required in order to cast a vote. When CBS-5 Mobile reporter Emily DeVoe asked about the closings, focusing on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's criticism of them, Cruz chalked it up to liberal stereotypes about the South.

“It’s not surprising to see a Democrat like Hillary Clinton coming in and attacking states, particularly Southern states," Cruz said. "Frankly, it’s a bigotry from the Democrats. They look down on the Southern states like we’re a bunch of hicks. Look, I’m from Texas and Hillary Clinton is not a big fan of my state either. We don’t need more politicians from Washington looking down on us like a fly-over company. We’ve had seven years of a president who looks down on the American people. Hillary Clinton thinks we’re just a bunch of ignorant rubes, and we need to be governed by what she deems as moral and philosophical betters. I think that’s complete nonsense. I believe in the American people."

No Republican candidate has actually criticized Alabama's decision, which was condemned by Democrats after it was announced in October. Calling the decision "a blast from the Jim Crow blast," Clinton echoed the voting rights advocates who asked why rural counties, where black voters had delivered huge margins for Democrats, seemed to bear the brunt of the closures.

"I'm not picking on Alabama, I just think we got to stop this before it gets out of control," she said. "Believe me, they won't stop with rural counties and driver's license offices, right?"

Clinton, who is trying to reassemble and build on President Obama's electoral coalition, has latched onto voting rights as a way to motivate African American voters. Since the Supreme Court's 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, Democrats have argued for the return of the "pre-clearance" portion of the Voting Rights Act.

In its absence, the Obama administration has launched investigations of decisions like Alabama's DMC move, to determine whether they violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. But Republican candidates for president have, like Cruz, portrayed the Democrats' complaints as politically-motivated searches for bias that is no longer there.

"Hillary Clinton is fighting to expand people's voting rights, and that's a case she'll make anywhere, anytime," said Christina Reynolds, Clinton's deputy communications manager. "Respecting voters means allowing them to vote, not systematically trying to weaken that right, as Senator Cruz and his party have done. Instead of offering insults, Senator Cruz should discuss why he’s consistently supported efforts that make it harder for Alabamians and many Americans to vote."