In separate ads released late Tuesday, two pro-Cruz groups single out U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for his role in immigration reform efforts that have become toxic to many primary voters. The issue has animated a weekslong feud between the two senators, though the action in recent days has centered on Cruz's brewing showdown with billionaire Trump.
One of the super PACs, Keep the Promise I, takes on Rubio most directly in a 90-second spot that features extensive testimony from President Barack Obama and other Democrats about the so-called "Gang of Eight" legislation that Rubio authored with seven other lawmakers. The ad, titled "Marco's Pathway," specifically seeks to highlight Rubio's support for a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, which Cruz tried to strip out of the bill.
"The Gang of Eight amnesty deal was a pivotal point for Senators to draw a line in the sand on their positions on the crucial issue of rewarding those who broke the law," Kellyanne Conway, president of Keep the Promise I, said in a statement. "Senator Cruz stood up to the Gang of Eight and stopped the bill in its tracks, demonstrating his commitment to the protection of the country."
Keep the Promise I said it is running the spot online starting Wednesday in the first four early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. It is part of an ad buy totaling more than $200,000.
Responding to the Keep the Promise I ad, Rubio's campaign suggested it was an attempt to distract from Cruz's own history with the issue of immigration. Rubio has argued Cruz's views on the subject are not too different from his, a charge the Texan denies.
"Senator Cruz and his millions in attack ads can’t cover up the fact that he will say or do anything to win an election including changing his positions on legalization of illegal immigrants, birthright citizenship, expanding legal immigration, and increasing H-1B visas," Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder said in a statement. "When Marco is president, there will be no amnesty, the border will be secured, and immigration laws will be enforced."
The other ad is the work of Stand for Truth, a relatively new pro-Cruz outfit. Titled "Threats," the 30-second spot deals less harshly with Rubio than the Keep the Promise I ad does, showing an image of him for a few seconds while a narrator laments how the federal government has failed to keep the country safe.
"With the clear and present threat of radical Islamic terrorism on the march, we must secure our borders," the narrator says. "But Washington continues to fail us with groups like the Gang of Eight that support amnesty and allow sanctuary cities."
The ad is the first from Stand for Truth, which made a splash last month when it announced it had reserved over $4 million in TV time in Iowa and South Carolina. It has since been reported that Fort Worth money manager Hal Lambert, once a top bundler for the Cruz campaign, is behind the super PAC.
A Stand for Truth spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for additional details on the ad. It was first reported by Politico.