FILE: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) missed any step at Thursday's Republican debate, it was when he derided the "New York values" of Donald Trump. The mogul-turned-candidate was ready with an outraged response -- a claim that the "beautiful people" of New York, who had endured and overcome the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001, did not deserve an insult like that. Cruz, who had been scoring point after point, simply applauded along with the audience and ended the question.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton challenged Bernie Sanders's stance on gun control during a campaign event in Amers, Iowa on Jan. 12. (Reuters)

Today, after his first post-debate event, Cruz composed a comeback. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who moderated the Conservative Leadership Project "town hall" -- only he asked questions -- did not ask about "New York values." Members of the audience, when pressed, said that Cruz had obviously been referring to looser cultural norms, crime, and socialism. So Cruz did not get a chance to hit back until an impromptu news conference on the way to his campaign car. He took just one question: Would he apologize to all the New Yorkers he'd offended?

"Well, you're right," said Cruz with a smile. "Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio have all demanded apologies, and I'm happy to apologize."

Then Cruz let loose.

I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers that have been held down by liberal policies in New York City.

I apologize to the hard-working men and women in the state of New York who have been denied jobs because Gov. Cuomo won't allow fracking. Even though there have been many high-paying jobs just south in Pennsylvania, New Yorkers have been denied the chance to provide for their families.

I apologize to all the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-Second Amendment New Yorkers told by Gov. Cuomo that they have no place in New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.

I apologize to all the small businesses that have been driven out of New York City by crushing taxes and regulations.

I apologize to all of the African American children who Mayor De Blasio tried to throw out of their schools that were providing a lifeline to the American dream.

And I apologize to all of the cops, firefighters, and 9/11 heroes who had no choice but to stand and turn their backs on Mayor De Blasio, because Mayor De Blasio, over and over again, stands with the looters and criminals rather than the brave men and women of law enforcement.

Another reporter tried to jump in. Cruz was not done. "I do have good news for the good people of New York," he said. "I believe 2016 is going to be an election like 1980, and help is on the way."

That was it. Cruz ignored shouted questions, including one about a lawsuit filed in Texas over his eligibility to be president, and got in the car. Since last night, his campaign had spun the "New York values" line as a way to open up culture war attacks on Trump, a thrice-married celebrity billionaire who has scored high with evangelical voters despite showing no interest in gay marriage and only fitful interest in defunding Planned Parenthood.