Politics & Policy

Cruz Campaign Tactics Can’t Be TrusTED

Cruz campaigns in Seneca, S.C., February 17, 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong)

As Republicans cast their ballots in Saturday’s South Carolina presidential primary, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) played defense for perpetrating a pattern of deceptive campaign tactics that no longer can be dismissed as a goof here or an isolated incident there. And photographic evidence exists for this ugly picture.

•Just before the February 1 Iowa Caucus, voters received a mailing that looked like an ominous government document. The circular screamed: “Election Alert” and “Voter Violation” — the latter in red letters.

This, from the outset, was false. The contents concerned each recipient’s “participation in recent elections” based on government records. Unlike Australia, where voting is mandatory, it is not a violation in Iowa or anywhere in America to avoid the polls.

Inside, the “Official Public Record” and “Voting Violation” read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well.

The flier then adds menacingly: “A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”

Spookier still is what came next: A letter grade for the flier’s recipient and for some of that person’s neighbors. Low scores, such as the Fs given to those who only had voted 55 percent of the time, presumably were there to shame people into attending the Iowa Caucus.

Encouraging civic involvement is one thing. Tarting up a direct-mail campaign to resemble a legal notice from the Election Police is quite another. This duplicitous effort smacks of voter intimidation.

Nothing on the flier instructed anyone to caucus for Ted Cruz. However, the return address sent that message: “Paid for by Cruz for President, P.O. Box 25384, Houston, TX 77265.”

Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Paul Pate, told the Daily Mail that Cruz’s propaganda piece “misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.”

Confronted about this effort, Cruz was unrepentant. He said he would not apologize for “using every tool we can” to drive Iowans to the polls.

• On the night of the Iowa Caucus, CNN announced, “Carson to take a break after Iowa.”

The Cruz campaign rushed out this message:

CNN is reporting that Ben Carson will stop campaigning after Iowa. Make sure to tell all of your peers at the caucus supporting Carson that they should coalesce around the true conservative who will be in the race for the long haul: TED CRUZ!

As Cruz, a Harvard-trained lawyer, understands, “stop campaigning” may have been technically true, in so far as Carson planned to fly to Florida, briefly regroup after 18 consecutive days of campaigning, and then return swiftly to the hustings in New Hampshire. This did not mean that Carson would shrink from the “long haul,” as Cruz’s Caucus-night dispatch clearly implied.

High-profile Cruz supporter Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) went even further at 8:20 that evening, via Twitter: “Carson looks like he is out. Iowans need to know before they vote. Most will go to Cruz, I hope.”

Carson was not “out,” and indicating as much — especially from such a prominent Hawkeye State politician — surely cost Carson votes.

“It was happening all over,” Carson campaign Iowa state director Ryan Rhodes told MSNBC. “One of the precincts Candy [Carson, the contender’s wife] walked into, she had to correct the record. She actually walked in, in Ankeny, and gave a speech about ‘No, he’s still in the race, and that’s a lie.’”

Rob Taylor, Carson’s Iowa co-chair, was far more succinct: “This is horseshit, bottom line.”

• The dirtiest trick yet was this instantly notorious “photograph” of Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) shaking hands with Obama to celebrate “The Rubio-Obama Trade Pact.” The picture is phonier than Astroturf. In fact, this is a monument to the magic of Photoshop.

The Cruz forces started with a picture of two men shaking hands. They flipped it, so the two men traded places. They then digitally decapitated them and replaced their heads with those of Rubio and Obama.

The Cruz campaign shows no shame for this high-tech lie. Spokesman Rick Tyler told CNN, “If Rubio has a better picture of him shaking hands with Barack Obama, I’m happy to swap it out.”

#related#Agree or disagree with Cruz, he once conducted much of his campaign on the high road, with intelligent discussion of the U.S. Constitution, limited government, and the universal benefits of free markets. But as the ballots have started to be cast, Cruz has crawled into the gutter with scams worthy of Hillary Clinton.

“Over the last ten days, the Cruz campaign has lied, smeared, fabricated, and even Photoshopped,” said Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director. “The Cruz campaign will do anything to stop Marco Rubio’s momentum.”

As a candidate whose campaign is aimed largely at evangelical Christians, Ted Cruz would be wise to heed this admonition from Exodus 20:16, “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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