Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is fighting a two-front war — and having fun doing it. Today his campaign launched new ads that portray Donald Trump as an action figure, and former Rubio supporters as disgruntled members of a therapy group.
In the anti-Rubio spot, "Conservatives Anonymous," voters sit in a circle in a dark room, admitting that they were fooled by a political "pretty boy."
"Has anyone else struggled with being lied to?" asks the group leader.
"Well, I voted for a guy who was a tea party hero on the campaign trail," admits a group member. "Then he went to D.C. and played patty-cake with Chuck Schumer on amnesty."
"Does that make you angry?" asks the group leader.
"Angry?" scoffs the group member. "It makes me feel dumb for trusting him."
In the anti-Trump spot, "Playing Trump" — previewed as a Web ad Wednesday — small children mess around with a plastic version of the candidate ("he pretends to be a Republican!") and smash a "lousy" doll house, yelling "eminent domain," as their horrified parents watch. The ad only differs from the 47-second Web version by excising a moment when the children bring in a Hillary Clinton doll and make "Trump" offer her "money to be my friend." (In both versions, the Trump doll's molded coif is oddly flattering.)
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The eye-catching spots emphasize the Cruz campaign's goals for South Carolina — convincing conservative voters that Trump and Rubio only tell them what they think they want to hear. Cruz has hardly altered his campaign speech since the final weeks of the Iowa campaign; the campaign is eager to point out ways in which Rubio or Trump alter their pitches for the socially conservative upstate or the veteran-heavy low country. It's eager to avoid a repeat of the endgame in Iowa, where Cruz turned his guns on Trump, and late-deciding voters swung to Rubio, earning him half a week of positive coverage.
Before the New Hampshire primary, Trump was already on the air in South Carolina with a more traditional spot attacking Cruz's 2013 immigration bill amendment and his campaign-saving 2012 loans. That spot has been swapped out for a positive one, for a state where Trump's brash and trash-talking style is a slightly harder sell.