UPDATE, 12:55 PM: Donald Trump is a “sniveling coward,” his GOP rival Ted Cruz said this afternoon, in response to Trump’s retweet comparing photos of their wives with the message, “images are worth a thousand words.”

“It’s not easy to tick me off. I don’t get angry often,” Cruz told reporters and TV cameras as he campaigned in Wisconsin. “But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time. Donald, you are a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone,” he said, declaring, “Our spouses and our children are off limits.”

He added, “Real men don’t try to bully women. It is not an action of strength, it is an action of weakness, and the action of a petty man who is intimidated by strong women.”

UPDATE with Trump morning tweet and Ben Carson reax: This morning, GOP front-runner Donald Trump, in a re-tweet that pitted a photo of former model Melania Trump against a photo of Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife and Goldman Sachs investment manager Heidi Cruz, further illustrated what he meant when he said, back in August, “I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to be able to do things for women that no other candidate would be able to do”:

TV news outlets pounced, noting Ted Cruz campaign communications director Alice Stewart this morning called the re-tweet “conduct unbecoming” of the office for which Trump is running. Stewart also reiterated that Cruz’s campaign had nothing to do with the anti-Trump SuperPAC ad, featuring a nude-Melania photo from a GQ spread, that started it all. She further said Cruz’s campaign has denounced the ad and that Cruz has called family members “off limits.”  Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, meanwhile, contributed to this morning’s TV news cycle warnings that Trump won’t let up until Cruz condemns that ad and tells the SuperPAC to knock off the rannygazoo. So, expect days more of this.

Meanwhile, The View this morning tried to draw former GOP candidate Ben Carson, who has endorsed Trump, into the kerfuffle:

PREVIOUS, March 23: In today’s episode of Real Housewives Of Presidential Candidates, Heidi Cruz, Ted’s Harvard MBA-ed/Goldman Sachs investment manager wife, held a rare solo press conference in front of her husband’s Wisconsin campaign HQ this morning to say with a steely smile, “You probably know by now that most of the things Donald Trump says have no basis in reality. So we are not worried in the least.”

She was talking about a Trump tweet that has titillated the media since yesterday:

Reporters Who Are Dying To Know What Are Heidi Cruz’s Spill-able Beans instead politely asked her questions such as, “Are spouses fair game?”

“I want you to focus on what our campaign puts out, which you’ll find is a positive hopeful, optimistic agenda for this country,” she scolded. “Ted talks a lot about what we call optimistic conservatism.”

Several questions in, one reporter finally screwed up courage to ask what was her response to Trump’s threat.

“Ted Cruz is the right person to be president of this country. He’s ready to be commander in chief on day one,” she said, smiling frozenly.

Earlier this morning, her husband, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, rushed to the defense of the little woman on CNN.

“Last night Donald threatened my wife. He went directly after my wife,” Cruz told New Day’s Chris Cuomo. “And I got to tell  you, No. 1, Heidi – my wife – she’s the daughter of missionaries in Africa. She’s my best friend in the world. And if Donald wants to get into a character fight, he’s better off sticking with me because Heidi is way out of his league,” Cruz chest-thumped.

Yesterday, Trump won Arizona’s 58 delegates, but Cruz snagged Utah’s 40 delegates. Days earlier, a SuperPAC that wants Cruz in melania-628x356the White House, called MakeAmericaAwesome (because it’s already great), ran a Facebook campaign against Trump, aimed at the state’s conservative voters. The ad features a nude photo of Melania Trump from a 15-year-old clothing-challenged GQ photo spread. Over the photo, but not covering Melania, thank goodness, ran the headline: “Meet Melania Trump. Your Next First Lady.”

GQ, which re-ran its photo shoot with Melania a couple weeks ago, without incurring the wrath of Trump – at least, according to his Twitter account – this morning was tickled pink. “A British GQ photo shoot with Melania Trump from January 2000 is being used by his political opponents to attack him. A few weeks ago we republished the photo shoot of Melania Trump which you can see here, and they’ve clearly annoyed Donald Trump,” GQ simpered.

Not long after Trump’s initial, dazzling tweet, Cruz had responded, using The SuperPAC Defense, aka I was nowhere near that decision-making:

Trump this morning responded to Cruz’s CNN appearance but, so far, not to Heidi Cruz’s press conference/media knuckle rapping: