Is Ted Cruz tough as Texas? Richard Linklater doesn’t seem to think so.
The acclaimed director and Houston native is behind a new ad taunting the Republican senator for his embrace of President Donald Trump despite the men’s bitter rivalry during the 2016 GOP presidential primaries.
In an especially acrimonious moment, Trump took a swipe at the senator’s wife, Heidi Cruz, and promoted a National Enquirer conspiracy theory that Cruz’s father helped plot the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The web ad pokes fun at Cruz’s “Tough as Texas” slogan, meant to give the incumbent an air of rugged independence. But critics say the banner plays on fears of a dangerous “extreme left wing” bearing little resemblance to the positions of his opponent.
Watch: New Political Ad Responds to Ted Cruz‘s ‘Tough as Texas’ Campaign Slogan
“Somebody left something on my door the other day that said, ‘Ted Cruz: tough as Texas,’” actor Sonny Carl Davis, who explained Texas to outsiders in Linklater’s film “Bernie,” says in the ad. “If somebody called my wife a dog, and said my daddy was in on the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn’t be kissin’ their ass.”
Cruz is locked in a tough re-election battle with upstart candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Likely Republican after initially rating it a Solid Republican race.
Fire Ted Cruz PAC, an Austin-based super PAC, produced the ad. Investment banker Vaughn Vennerberg II of MorningStar Partners, an oil and gas company, and Dallas trial lawyer Marc Stanley provided the super PAC’s seed money, Texas Monthly reported in April.
FTC PAC reported having received about $278,000 in contributions through the year and having nearly $104,000 in cash-on-hand in its September FEC filing. Legally, FTC PAC cannot coordinate with the O’Rourke campaign.
The super PAC has also needled Cruz for his endorsement of Trump on Instagram.
It shouldn’t take Richard Linklater to do it, but finally a political ad that looks and feels different https://t.co/CH8F55fqSk
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) October 9, 2018
Cruz was asked about his praise of Trump despite the insults in a September debate.
“How do you respond to critics who say that, where it relates to President Trump, you’ve lost your dignity?” the moderator asked.
“There were some hard shots thrown,” Cruz responded. “After the election in 2016, Donald Trump had been elected president and I faced a choice … So I have worked hand in hand with the president on substance,” citing the 2017 GOP tax bill. “I could have made it about me, I could have said ‘my feelings are hurt, so I’m gonna take my marbles and go home.’ But I think that would have been not doing the job I was elected to do.”
Trump offered a “complete and total endorsement” of Cruz in August.
Though Cruz has avoided naming Trump on the campaign trail, Donald Trump Jr. stumped for the senator last week.
“That’s why we’ve got to ring the bell for Ted Cruz,” Trump Jr. told a San Antonio radio station, the Statesman reported>. “All the MAGA (Make America Great Again) people have got to realize, Trump is on the ticket in November.”
Watch: What Surprised Roll Call’s Politics Team This Midterm Season (So Far)