Ted Cruz’s presidential bid is in turmoil after repeated allegations of unsavory campaign tactics by his Republican rivals, leading some key supporters to call for a shake-up in the candidate’s message and strategy a week ahead of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries.
Aides and allies of the insurgent senator from Texas acknowledged in interviews this week that the campaign has been damaged by attacks on Cruz’s integrity from Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. They have pointed to a series of questionable tactics by the Cruz camp, including calls to voters suggesting that candidate Ben Carson was dropping out and the sharing of an inaccurate video suggesting Rubio had disparaged the Bible.
The video flap prompted Cruz to abruptly fire his chief spokesman, Rick Tyler, who posted the clip on social media, on Monday in an attempt to put his candidacy back on course. But the troubles continued Tuesday, when the campaign halted the sale of merchandise by a street artist whose social-media accounts include controversial and sometimes racist messages.
Cruz also weathered another wave of attacks from Trump on the eve of the Nevada caucuses. Trump told a rally in Sparks, Nev., that Cruz is “like a little baby — soft, weak little baby. . . . But for lying, he’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Cruz and his aides say the accusations of deception are simply false. But with the issue dominating media coverage for more than a week, aides and supporters now acknowledge that the attacks have started taking a toll.
Louie Hunter, Cruz’s Georgia co-chair, said the allegations of untruths being pushed by Trump and Rubio have made their way to voters.
“I think both the Trump and the Rubio campaigns have seized on the narrative that if they say ‘liar’ enough, enough people are going to believe it,” Hunter said. “I think that has manifested itself into some people questioning, albeit incorrectly, the real moral character of Senator Cruz and of this campaign.”
The tumult comes at a crucial time for Cruz, who won the Iowa caucuses at the start of the month but finished third in both New Hampshire and, more disappointingly, South Carolina — a state filled with the evangelical Christians and tea party conservatives who make up his political base. After Tuesday night’s Nevada caucuses — which Trump was favored to win — Cruz is looking ahead to March 1, known as “Super Tuesday,” which features 11 state contests mostly in the South, including Cruz’s home state of Texas.
Cruz’s campaign has been focused on Super Tuesday since its inception, with the candidate calling the South a “firewall” that could help him gobble up delegates and secure the nomination. The campaign has poured time and resources into the delegate-rich region, believing its high percentage of religious and conservative voters would be natural Cruz supporters.
But with the Republican campaign in a new national phase, a Cruz aide acknowledged that the shouts of “liar” could have far-reaching implications for a candidate who touts his slogan “TrusTed.”
For some supporters, some of the alleged dirty tricks — including a photo on a website created by the Cruz campaign that digitally added Rubio’s head onto the body of a man shaking hands with President Obama — were too much.
“I think when it looks like there’s a pattern of a Photoshopped picture or now a false tweet, that’s not good. It’s going too far, it’s crossing the line,” said Mica Mosbacher, a Cruz donor from Houston. “It was becoming a pattern. . . . When you see one Photoshop and now a false tweet, that was a pattern that needed to be stopped in its tracks.”
Cruz’s campaign did not respond to requests for public comment.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post