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On South Carolina TV, Ted Cruz Targets Rubio and Trump — With Humor

In two new ads, Ted Cruz's campaign mocks his two leading Republican rivals. One ad depicts a support group for former Marco Rubio voters. The other shows children playing with a Donald Trump action figure.

Republican presidential candidates: U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and billionaire Donald Trump.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the Cruz campaign's decision to pull down an ad apparently including an adult movie actress.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — This early voting state is known for bare-knuckle politics, but so far, Ted Cruz is taking a relatively light-hearted approach to his rivals on the airwaves here. 

In a pair of TV ads released this week, Cruz, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, uses tongue-in-cheek humor to go after billionaire Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, portraying both as untrustworthy candidates who won't make good on their word. The commercials are arriving in the final two weeks before the first-in-the-South primary in the Palmetto State, where Trump is a favorite to win and Rubio in a weaker position but still in Cruz's crosshairs. 

The more recent of the two 30-second spots involves the Florida senator, whom Cruz has criticized for his involvement in immigration reform efforts in 2013. Titled "Conservatives Anonymous," the anti-Rubio commercial portrays a meeting of a self-help group where a man recalls how he "voted for a guy who was a Tea Party hero on the campaign trail."

"Then he went to D.C. and played patty cake with Chuck Schumer and cut a deal on amnesty," the man says, referring to Rubio's collaboration with Schumer, his Democratic colleague from New York, on the so-called "Gang of Eight" legislation.

The leader of the self-help group then asks the man if he feels angry about the alleged betrayal. "Angry? It makes me feel dumb for trusting him," the man replies. 

"Maybe you should vote for more than just a pretty face next time," a woman interjects, moments before another man enters the room wearing a Rubio T-shirt.

"Do you have room for one more?" the man asks as the group waves him in. 

The anti-Rubio ad, however, had a short life Thursday. The Cruz campaign took it down after the conservative news website The Daily Caller asked whether it had an adult film actress in it.

"The actress responded to an open casting call," Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement.  "She passed her audition and got the job.  Unfortunately, she was not vetted by the casting company. Had the campaign known of her full filmography, we obviously would not have let her appear in the ad."

The anti-Trump spot, titled "Playing Trump," takes place in a play room where young children are passing around a Trump action figure. After one child asks what the action figure does, another says it "pretends to be a Republican." 

"I like bailouts for the banks," one of the kids says, mimicking the action figure. "Too big to fail!" another child shouts.

The scene eventually devolves into chaos as the children bash a doll house with the action figure, screaming, "Eminent domain!" Cruz has zeroed in on Trump's support for the practice, which lets the government take private property for public use. 

As a mother and father watch the children in horror, a narrator asks: "We wouldn't tolerate these these values in our children. Why would we want them in a president?"

A Cruz spokeswoman said the ads are airing in South Carolina but declined to say when. The anti-Rubio spot is part of a six-figure buy, according to the spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier.

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Politics 2016 elections Ted Cruz