Election 2020

Cruz Focuses Negative Ads in Iowa on Rubio for Final Three Days

(AP Photo/Scott Morgan)

It’s getting real.

Senator Ted Cruz, scrambling to put down a growing threat in Iowa from Senator Marco Rubio, is shifting nearly all of his negative advertising from Donald J. Trump to Mr. Rubio for the final three days of the caucuses.

Mr. Cruz intends to direct his firepower at his Senate colleague after days of seeing Mr. Rubio inch up both in public polling and his own private surveys, according to two advisers to Mr. Cruz who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After leading in the polls in Iowa for much of the last month, Mr. Cruz has slipped into second behind Mr. Trump in most public surveys.

The change of direction marks an abrupt shift, reflecting how volatile the race in Iowa remains: Mr. Cruz’s campaign only began airing negative spots against Mr. Trump this week and just put their first attack ad up against Mr. Rubio on Thursday on Iowa television.

This move will probably be read by many as meaning Cruz is conceding first place to Trump and wants to assure himself of a solid second-place finish.

The Cruz campaign thus far has been looking further ahead than that though. It is obvious that the hardcore single-issue (or mostly single-issue) illegal-immigration voters are looking at Trump and Cruz. There could be a battle going on for any undecided voters there may be in that crowd, although I would contend there aren’t that many. The Trump fans who love him because of his immigration stance have largely been there since day one.

Rubio’s most vulnerable flank is obviously the “Gang of Eight” slip-up, even though he’s handled it well so far. It’s absolutely asinine to think that he’s the only candidate in this election who isn’t allowed to have evolved on an issue. Rubio’s conservative bona fides beyond that are rather impeccable, no matter what his detractors would like to believe. Still, this is the logical issue for Cruz to attack Rubio over if he is, as Rand Paul suggested in the debate, building his entire campaign around being the one who has never been for amnesty.

Regardless of the motivation behind the shift, a public Cruz/Rubio battle may have just enough marquee value to keep some cameras off of Trump, and that, ladies and gentlemen, would get this party moving in a better direction.