Tricky Campaign Tactics Persist in South Carolina

Campaign signs in Anderson, S.C., this month. (Eric Thayer for The New York Times)
Campaign signs in Anderson, S.C., this month. (Eric Thayer for The New York Times)

From Lee Atwater’s whispers that a congressional candidate was psychotic to rumors that John McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock to fake Mormon holiday cards supposedly sent by Mitt Romney, South Carolina is infamous for its dirty politics.

While this year has not lived up to past levels of salaciousness — so far — presidential candidates are not shying away from employing underhanded tricks ahead of the Republican South Carolina primary on Saturday. And they have been more than happy to cry foul.

Here are some of the more creative efforts:

The Obama Embrace

Senator Marco Rubio spends much of his time on the campaign trail discussing how President Obama is trying to destroy America. To rebut that notion, Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign set up “The Real Rubio Record” website highlighting Mr. Rubio’s cooperation with Democrats over the years. Taking some license with imagery, the Cruz campaign blended photographs to create an image of a beaming (and short) Mr. Rubio shaking hands with Mr. Obama.

The Facebook Faux Pas

The Cruz campaign was also put on the defensive by a false Facebook post that depicted Representative Trey Gowdy, a prominent supporter of Senator Marco Rubio, changing his mind and formally backing Mr. Cruz. Mr. Cruz said his team had “absolutely nothing to do with this fraudulent Facebook post.”

The Concocted Quote

Mr. Cruz has also been on the receiving end of some mudslinging. Donald J. Trump happily posted a quotation on Twitter purportedly from former Senator Tom Coburn calling Mr. Cruz “one of the most dishonest people in D.C.” The only problem was that Mr. Coburn never said that. Mr. Trump and his social media director deleted the tweets, but the candidate still managed to mention the quotation on the campaign trail.

Pushing the Push Polls

Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio have all accused one another of using “push polls,” a tactic in which a fake pollster calls up voters and asks loaded questions that spread misinformation. Faced with its own allegations of dishonesty, the Cruz campaign employed former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas this week to accuse Mr. Rubio of spreading rumors. “The Rubio campaign has hypocritically and falsely accused the Cruz campaign of negative push polling, while at the same time hitting South Carolinians all across the state with their own negative and inaccurate push polls against Cruz,” Mr. Perry said.

Robocalls (en Español)

South Carolina is not known for having a large Spanish-speaking population, but voters are getting automated calls in Spanish that detail Mr. Rubio’s support for so-called amnesty for undocumented immigrants. The Huffington Post unearthed the recordings, which are intended to make Republican voters think that Mr. Rubio is promising not to deport immigrants. The Rubio campaign said that Mr. Cruz’s team “has now gone bilingual with their false dirty tricks.” The Cruz campaign denied any responsibility for the calls.

The New York Times