After reports that Ted Cruz raised questions about Donald Trump's judgment this week at a closed-door fundraiser, it was only a matter of time before the real estate mogul went on the offensive.
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that Cruz "is getting ready to attack" and painted the Texas senator as beholden to donor "bosses."
For his part, Cruz tried to tamp down speculation of a political "cage match" with Trump, calling his rival "terrific."
Cruz has studiously avoided publicly criticizing the Republican frontrunner, and Trump had previously spared Cruz from his trademark attacks. But the newest exchange comes after a New York Times report that Cruz suggested to donors in a private meeting that he doubted Trump's "judgment" to be commander in chief.
Cruz's campaign called that report "misleading" on Thursday, but did not dispute the nature of Cruz's emphasis on "judgment."
"In the course of a Presidential election, the voters are going to make a decision about every candidate," the campaign said in a statement. "And ultimately the decision is, who has the right judgment and the right experience to serve as Commander in Chief?"
While Trump continues to lead in national and most early state polls, Cruz has recently gained significant ground in the key first caucus state of Iowa.