CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has purchased television advertising time this weekend on local affiliates and national cable networks, his campaign said Thursday, making him the first White House contender to hit the airwaves this cycle.
Cruz (R-Tex.) has reserved time during “Killing Jesus,” a documentary-style adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book that will run four times this weekend on Fox News. The program first aired on the National Geographic Channel, where it nabbed 3.7 million viewers.
The campaign has also purchased ads statewide in the early-voting states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina during NBC’s “A.D.: The Bible Continues” on Easter Sunday. The Cruz ad will air once during that show.
The ad purchases follow news that Cruz raised $4 million in his first eight days as a candidate, a stong fundraising pace for a newly declared campaign. The haul was driven largely by small-dollar donations, with bundlers accounting for roughly one-third of the money.
Cruz’s campaign said it is spending about $33,000 on the ads.
The Republican senator’s programming choice for the ads, along with the Easter weekend timing, underscore his commitment to wooing voters of faith. Cruz kicked off his presidential campaign at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., a Christian college founded by fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell. During campaign stops here in Iowa, Cruz has evoked God and reiterated his support for the controversial Indiana religious-freedom law that was signed last week and later amended.
It is rare for a candidate to begin purchasing ads this early in the primary cycle. Cruz’s campaign said it wanted to buy the ads now because of the number of cultural conservatives expected to tune in over the holiday weekend.
“For the impact, it’s crazy not to buy this,” said a campaign adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.
The buy on Fox, this adviser said, also sends a message that Cruz is running a national campaign and is looking beyond the early primary states. Since his announcement, his campaign has been targeting donors and voters in states that vote later in the process.
Cruz’s ads will also take advantage of the fact that he is the only candidate who has formally announced that he is running for president — which makes him the only White House hopeful who can legally purchase airtime; others are expected to enter the race beginning next week.