Sen. Ted Cruz attacked Donald Trump during Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate for holding socially liberal “New York values,” and Trump responded by invoking the tenacity of New Yorkers following September 11, 2001.

Cruz said while there are many wonderful people in New York, “everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media… The concept of New York values is not that complicated to figure out.”

Cruz noted that Trump once did an interview with the late Tim Russert in which he expressed liberal views and said he held them because he was from New York.

“Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” Cruz concluded. “I’m just saying.”

When it came time for Trump to respond, rather than take a heavy-handed approach, he stood up for the people of New York by describing their spirit after the 9/11 terrorist 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,” Trump began.

The audience, including Cruz, interrupted to applaud.

“You had two 110-story buildings come crashing down, I saw them come down, thousands of people killed and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup probably in the history of doing this and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

“And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death. Nobody understood it and it was with us for months, the smell, the air. And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers.

“And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.”

The debate came not even three weeks before the first votes of the 2016 campaign – in Iowa.

On the main debate stage in North Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by the Fox Business Network, were Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Moderating were FBN anchor Neil Cavuto and anchor Maria Bartiromo.

In national polling, Trump was surging ahead of the rest of the GOP pack at 35 percent in the RealClearPolitics average Thursday. Cruz came in at 19 percent. Rubio garnered 11.3 percent and Carson, 8 percent. Bush dropped to 4.7 percent. Christie came in at 3 percent and Fiorina, 2.7 percent.

An earlier undercard included former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rick Santorum.

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