Branstad (R) last week questioned whether Cruz, who was born in Canada, is eligible to run for president. Then, when asked if Cruz should lose the caucuses, Branstad said, "yes," according to The Des Moines Register.
"Ted Cruz is ahead right now. What we’re trying to do is educate the people in the state of Iowa. He is the biggest opponent of renewable fuels," Branstad said, according to the paper. "I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him."
Cruz said Branstad and others more establishment Republicans are concerned about his candidacy.
"It is no surprise that the establishment is in full panic mode," Cruz said. "As conservatives unite behind our campaign, we are going to see the Washington cartel firing every shot they can, every cannon they can, because the Washington cartel lives on cronyism. It lives on making deals."
Cruz said he has seen a groundswell of grassroots support here and elsewhere.
"We will see like ‘The Empire Strikes back,’ the establishment will strike back because they don’t want an end to the cronyism and the gravy train from Washington," he said.
When asked if he thought that Iowa corn farmers are crony capitalists, Cruz said no.
"I’m saying Iowa corn farmers are wonderful Americans, but Iowa corn farmers are not career politicians. Iowa corn farmers are frustrated with career politicians," he said.
Branstad’s son has hosted fundraisers for one of Cruz's opponents, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Brandstad's son "is leading the effort of lobbyists and Democrats to run attack ads against our campaign because they're supporting a more moderate candidate," Cruz told reporters in Baton Rouge, La., last week. "They’re entitled to do that and they’re entitled to engage in whatever attacks they want. It's the nature of politics.”