Bullying. Power. Cronies. These may not be the first words you think of when you hear about real estate tycoon Donald Trump, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz has a new South Carolina ad that launched Thursday and seeks to change that.
Cruz has hit Trump on the issue of eminent domain in the past, but this ad dwells on the implications, and really fleshes out the “sleaze” factor. The ad seems to have taken the advice of the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat, who suggested that the best way to destroy Trump’s support is to “flip his brand.”
“Trump is a salesman….And how do you flip a salesman’s brand? You persuade people that he’s a con artist, and they’re his marks,” Douthat explained. He suggested attackers like Cruz “don’t get mired in philosophical arguments about big government and crony capitalism. Find the people hurt by Trump’s attempts to exploit eminent domain.”
In South Carolina, the next state to vote in the Republican primary, Trump holds the lead with 36 percent to Cruz’s 19.7 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average. This ad is the first salvo in Cruz’s plan to turn that around.
“Parking Lot” opens with Vera Coking, a widow in Atlantic City, NJ. “Vera Coking’s home was all she had left, but it stood in Donald Trump’s way and the limousine parking lot he wanted for his casino,” the voiceover declares.
To him, she was a nobody, so Trump schemed with Atlantic City government to force Coking from her home using eminent domain.
Then the ad cuts to a Trump interview with John Stossel, who says “you’re bullying these people out because…” Trump cuts him off to insist, “This is a government case, this is not Donald Trump.” But Stossel gets the last word: “Yes, it’s Donald Trump! It’s you and your cronies in government working together.”
Cut to a photo of Trump standing in a government building, with the ominous words “public power, private gain.”
Trump justifies his action, declaring: “I offered her a lot of money out of this, a little thing called heart.” Footage of Coking: “Heart? He doesn’t have no heart, that man.”
Then follows the statement at the heart of Cruz’s message — “Trump bankrolled politicians to steamroll the little guy, a pattern of sleaze stretching back decades.”
Skip to 2016, and Trump still supports eminent domain. Footage turns to Fox News’ Chris Wallace asking, “Do you support taking private property for private use?” Trump’s damning answer, “I am for that….Eminent domain is wonderful. Yes, we have to use the power of eminent domain.”
As usual, the ad closes with a zinger. “Trump uses power for personal gain. Imagine the damage he could do as president.”