Anti-Iran deal rally to showcase unlikely Trump-Cruz alliance
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Anti-Iran deal rally to showcase unlikely Trump-Cruz alliance

Despite competing for the same constituency, party mavericks find common cause ahead of event organized by tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Manhattan after he signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee in the 2016 general election, ruling out a third-party or independent run, September 3, 2015 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in Manhattan after he signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee in the 2016 general election, ruling out a third-party or independent run, September 3, 2015 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s cozy relationship with billionaire businessman Donald Trump is drawing new attention as the Republican presidential contenders prepare to headline a Capitol Hill rally against the Iran nuclear deal.

At Cruz’s invitation, Trump will appear with the Texas senator at a Wednesday event organized by ultraconservative tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups protesting the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. It’s the latest example of Cruz warming to the former reality television star, despite their competition for the same group of anti-establishment conservatives.

“An awful lot of presidential candidates have gone out of their way to take a stick to Donald Trump,” Cruz told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I am not one of them.”

Instead, Cruz tapped Trump to share the stage with him Wednesday for the Washington rally that is also expected to feature former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, conservative broadcast personality Glen Beck and several Republican members of Congress. The event is set to begin at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT). Organizers would not predict how many protesters might attend, but they’re expecting a rowdy atmosphere outside the Capitol as Congress debates the Iran deal inside.

The protest won’t change the ultimate approval of the international agreement, which has been clear for days: Even if a disapproval resolution should pass the House and Senate this week, President Barack Obama would veto it, and Democrats have the votes in hand to sustain his veto.

Cruz says he invited Trump simply to attract more attention to opposition to the “catastrophic” deal. “Wherever Donald goes, the media follow in droves,” Cruz said.

The appearance also highlights the unique relationship between Trump and Cruz, a tea party hero who helped shut down the federal government in 2013 and ultimately needs the same frustrated voters who have pushed Trump to a surprising lead in early polls. As his Republican competitors turn against Trump, Cruz has offered only praise. The strategy could pay dividends for Cruz in the coming months.

“Cruz seems to be the only one willing to stand with Trump,” said tea party co-founder Mark Meckler.

“Cruz has positioned himself to scoop up Trump supporters, should Trump begin to fade,” Meckler continued. “Yet with each passing day, the Trump fade seems less and less likely. Could we be seeing a Trump-Cruz ticket in the making?”

Trump has fewer and fewer allies in the packed 2016 contest. Among other presidential contenders, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Trump a “cancer” on conservatism, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has called attention to the billionaire’s friendship with Democrats Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Jeb Bush has branded Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “ugly” and “divisive.”

Trump has lashed out at several Republican competitors, but not Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. In a recent South Carolina appearance, however, Trump said he would turn against Cruz if he starts to get too close in the polls.

For now, however, Trump has a commanding lead in early polls.

Don’t expect any Republican infighting at Wednesday’s rally, where the speakers will be united in opposition to the Iran deal.

The agreement struck by Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany in July would provide Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on the country’s nuclear program. The deal aims to keep Iran at least a year away from being able to produce enough nuclear material for a weapon.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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