MESA, Ariz. (WLS) -- While speaking to the media at spring training in Mesa, Arizona, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts responded to an online threat from presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Trump tweeted a warning to the Ricketts family on Monday in reaction to news that Marlene Ricketts - the matriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs - is helping pay for ads against Trump in the race for president.
"It's a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom," Ricketts said. "But you know, the fact is whether it's my mom or my dad on his spending stuff or my sister on marriage equality or my brothers on what they do or what we do with the team, we're pretty much an open book. We stand up for what we believe in, we support the cause we think is important, and that's what America should be."
Members of the Ricketts family are long-time contributors to political campaigns, especially supporters of Republican candidates.
"We won with everything - tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people," Trump said.
Misspelling their name, Trump writes, "I hear the Rickets (sic) family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!"
"If we have something to hide, you guys would have found it by now, I'm sure," Ricketts told a crowd of media.
It appears Trump's tweet was in response to a published report that noted that billionaire Joe Ricketts' wife, Marlene, gave about $3 million to a super PAC that spent money in ads and mailings opposing Trump.
"I think it is mostly talk. I think he is unhappy with the Ricketts because they are not backing his campaign and they are backing other people," said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at University of Illinois - Chicago.
While he may be mad, throwing out a controversial tweet three weeks before the Illinois primary is classic Trump, Simpson says, because the Trump campaign is built on daily publicity.
"Twitter followers are not enough to elect him, but media coverage of tweets have gone a long way and this is another example. It's a new campaign style," Simpson said.
But, will Trump's Twitter strategy work in Illinois? Former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady thinks not.
"It does stir it up, and he sucks all the oxygen in the room. And other candidates can't get out there, but I don't think it's going to work very well here," Brady said.
Illinois' Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner weighed in on the issue Monday, but offered no hints on who he supports in the race.
"The race for president has been a very wild process, and I specifically have not commented on any of it," Rauner said.
But after resounding wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the Republican Party is facing the possibility that if Trump is triumphant in Nevada and then again on Super Tuesday, he will likely be the nominee. Former Senator Bob Dole is the latest member of the so-called "establishment" lining up behind Senator Marco Rubio.
"I don't care how much you may think they're funning or how interesting they may sound. If we nominate someone that 40 to 50 percent of our party can't stand, we're going to lose," Rubio said.
Brady is trying to spread the message to Illinois voters that a vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton. Brady is convinced Trump will not do as well in northern states such as Illinois and Ohio, where he believes Marco Rubio and John Kasich have more support.
Ricketts response to Trump tweet: 'If we have something to hide, you guys would have found it'