Ted Cruz smacked back at front-runner Donald Trump’s birther attacks during last night’s sixth GOP debate, as the Texas U.S. senator accused the brash billionaire of inventing the controversy to rescue his own sagging Iowa poll numbers.

“Since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed, but the poll numbers have,” Cruz said, pointing out that Trump had previously said that Cruz’s Canadian birth would not affect his status as a natural-born U.S. citizen. “And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa.”

Cruz went on to claim that under some extreme and strict interpretations of citizenship rules, both parents have to be born in the United States for someone to be a natural-born citizen.

“Donald J. Trump would be disqualified,” Cruz said, “because Donald’s mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized.”

“But I was born here,” Trump said. “Big difference.”

“I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you,” Cruz said.

“Good,” Trump shot back. “Because it wouldn’t work.”

The fireworks in last night’s South Carolina debate — sponsored by Fox Business Network and moderated by Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo — came just hours after a Wall Street Journal poll showed that Trump has opened up a commanding 13-point lead over Cruz among GOP primary voters nationwide, 33 to 20 percent within the field of GOP candidates. That’s a huge improvement over last month, when Trump held just a 5-point advantage over Cruz, and it may be a sign that more Republicans are warming up to The Donald as their potential nominee.

“You shouldn’t misrepresent how well you’re doing in the polls,” Trump told Cruz. “I think I’m going to win fair and square.”

But there was a silver lining for Cruz in the poll — he actually leads Trump in a head-to-head matchup, 51-43 percent.

Trump charged that Cruz as the nominee would have a “question mark” over his head and Democrats might sue to stop his candidacy, but admitted he raised the Cruz birthright issue because of his rival’s recent poll successes.

“Now he’s doing a little bit better,” Trump said. “I didn’t care before. It’s true. He never had a chance. Now he’s doing better. He’s got maybe a 4-5 percent chance.”

But Trump may have gotten the better of Cruz, in his response to Cruz’s jab that Trump embodies left-wing “New York values.”

“Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media,” said Cruz. “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just saying.”

Trump, who noted conservative William F. Buckley came from Manhattan, fired back that New York City values were on full display from the heroes who responded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York,” said Trump. “The people in New York fought and fought. … I have to tell you that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.”

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