Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will take his increasingly personal feud with GOP rival Sen. Ted Cruz to the airwaves, launching his first attack ad of this election cycle to amplify accusations that Cruz flip-flipped on immigration reform.
But instead of tearing into the Texas senator with character attacks or personal mockery — as the flamboyant businessman has been prone to do on the campaign trail — the ad relies on Cruz’s own words to paint an incriminating portrait.
The television ad opens with footage from a damaging December interview in which Fox News anchor Bret Baier pressed Cruz on whether he ever supported a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Baier specifically pointed to an amendment Cruz offered to the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have stripped the bill of a hypothetical path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but would nonetheless have allowed a path to legalization.
“It sounded like you wanted the bill to pass,” Baier tells Cruz in the first frame of the ad in footage taken from the December interview
The typically unflappable Texas senator then stumbled through a notably clumsy response.
“Eh, Br-of course I wanted the bill to pass, what — my amendment to pass, what my amendment did is take citizenship off the table but it doesn’t mean, what it doesn't mean that I supported other aspects of the bill.”
The next frame in the ad shows 2013 footage of Cruz speaking from the Senate floor: "I want immigration reform to pass ... and that allows those who are here illegally to come out of the shadows."
Phrases flash on screen during the footage, including, “Pro Amnesty,” and, “What is he talking about?”
The final 20 seconds of the 60-second ad cut to footage of Trump talking about ending illegal immigration by building a wall along the southern U.S.-Mexico border.
A press release from the Trump campaign Friday morning was less subtle: "Ted Cruz is a total hypocrite and, until recently, a Canadian citizen who may not even have a legal right to run for President. He didn’t disclose loans, pretending he’s Robin Hood, when he’s just another all talk, no action politician."
Cruz has aggressively sought to undermine Trump’s conservative bona fides on the campaign trail, accusing the business mogul of arriving late to issues like immigration and pointing to Trump’s previous support for abortion rights and single-payer health care.
Cruz has also sought to paint Trump as increasingly cozy with the Republican establishment in Washington. Trump has responded by saying that Cruz is "slimy" and by suggesting that his notoriously cold relationship with his Senate colleagues would impede his presidential agenda.
With less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the two are locked in a fight to win undecided voters. But the momentum seems to remain with Trump, who was shown to be leading the field in early-voting Iowa with 37 percent support to Cruz’s 26 percent support.
"Cruz is going down. He's going down. He's having a hard time. He looks like a nervous wreck,” Trump told a crowd in Las Vegas Thursday. “He's going down. He had his moment. He had his moment. He had his moment and he blew it.”
The Trump campaign said the ad will run in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Trump has vowed to spend at least $2 million per week on TV advertisements.