Ted Cruz
US Senator Ted Cruz stands on stage with his wife Heidi and their daughters Catherine and Caroline, as he announces his candidacy for president during an event at Liberty College in Lynchburg, Virginia on 23 March 2015REUTERS/Chris Keane

Rising Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz blasted The Washington Post for publishing a cartoon depicting his two daughters, aged 5 and 7, as dancing monkeys. Cruz called the cartoon, which criticised the candidate for using his children in a TV advert, inappropriate and said candidates' children should be off-limits in political campaigns.

The cartoon, which was eventually pulled by the newspaper, depicted Cruz dressed as Santa and his young daughters as dancing monkeys. According to The Associated Press, Cruz spoke to reporters on 23 December in Tulsa, Oklahoma and said that he has thick skin but that the cartoon "ticks me off".

"Not much ticks me off, but making fun of my girls? That will do it," he said. "Don't mess with my kids. Don't mess with Marco's kids. Don't mess with Hillary's kids. Don't mess with anybody's kids." According to Reuters, Cruz initially responded to the cartoon with an email to supporters that reportedly featured the cartoon. Cruz allegedly sought to raise $1m (£672,000, ‎€916,000) in contributions in 24 hours to "send a message to the Washington Post."

The Washington Post eventually withdrew the cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes from its website. Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said: "I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree." Cruz told reporters he appreciates the newspaper pulling the cartoon, noting it "was the right thing to do."

Recent primary polls show Cruz steadily climbing to the top, although he has yet to overcome Grand Old Party frontrunner Donald Trump in the national polls. A 22 December Quinnipiac poll had Cruz on 24% compared to Trump's 28%. Meanwhile, a 23 December CNN/ORC poll had Trump way ahead, 39% to Cruz's 18%.