NEW YORK, April 13 (UPI) -- Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz opened a CNN town hall event attacking his chief opponent, Donald Trump, as acting like a "union boss thug" for "threatening" GOP delegates.
The remarks come as Trump has stepped up his criticism of the party's electoral process, which has seen Cruz outmaneuver Trump in several recent states. Cruz has managed to gain an advantage in several states when the party decides who will comprise their delegations to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.
Trump has called the process "rigged" and complained loudly about states where Cruz is working to install delegates who would be bound to vote for Trump on a first ballot, but who would flock to him in the event that the first ballot deadlocks.
Cruz noted dryly of Trump, "he's unhappy about that."
"It is bizarre," Cruz said. "Donald and his team, it's almost like they are subjects in a clinical course in psychology. There are all sorts of different behaviors they display but one of them is projection. The conduct they do, they regularly accuse everyone else of doing. Roger Stone, his chief political adviser, threatened to out the hotel rooms of delegates [at the convention] who dared cross Trump. They're acting like union boss thugs.
"Violence doesn't belong in democracy. We shouldn't be intimidating delegates."
Cruz also did not rule out the possibility of striking a deal with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who stands third in the delegate count despite having ended his campaign last month. Under a scenario envisioned by the town hall moderator, Anderson Cooper of CNN, with a deadlocked convention, Cruz could offer to make Rubio his running mate in exchange for wooing his delegates to put Cruz over the top on the convention's second ballot. Asked if that was possible, Cruz did not answer directly, but instead heaped praise on his former rival.
"I think very, very highly of Marco," Cruz said. "He is an amazing communicator. He ran a campaign that inspired millions across this country. It inspired me. I think the world of Marco."
The second portion of the event took a sharp turn away from the rough-and-tumble race, frequently described as a feud, between Cruz and Trump. Texas' junior senator was joined on stage by his wife, Heidi, and took personal questions from members of a friendly, Republican-leaning audience.
Cruz was asked how the couple met and recounted meeting while they were both working on the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. Cruz described their first date, a late-night dinner, as "love at first sight."
Shortly thereafter, Heidi Cruz moved to Boston to pursue her business career, leading the couple to endure a long-distance relationship. They said late-night phone calls were a regular occurrence, with one or the other sometimes falling asleep on the phone at 3 or 4 in the morning.
Asked about their home life, Heidi Cruz said she's a poor cook: "I've burned many things."
The couple acknowledged some slightly blush-worthy choices for their favorite movies. Heidi Cruz said she rarely watches movies on her own, but preferred the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Legally Blonde. Ted Cruz repeated his favorite film: The Princess Bride.
Heidi Cruz, who has taken a leave of absence from her job with the investment firm Goldman Sachs to help her husband's campaign, was also asked what kind of first lady she would be if her husband is elected president.
Citing their two daughters, ages 7 and 5, who joined their parents on stage for the final segment of the program, she said she would prioritize programs that help instill confidence in young women. She also cited education and helping entrepreneurs as other policy preferences.