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Ted Cruz’s Ad Game Is Strong

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign ads are provocative, thoughtful, visually engaging, and funny.


Unless you’re Donald Trump and can count on the news media to breathlessly cover every one of your steps, you probably need television ads to help win a presidential caucus or primary. Ted Cruz has the best ad game of the bunch. Let’s look at three recent ads to see their effectiveness.


Last week, Cruz released a provocative ad about immigration (“Invasion”). It features a bunch of professionals in suits carrying computers and suitcases running across a border. They traverse a river and have difficulty navigating the difficult ground in their heels and nice shoes.

As the drum beats, Ted Cruz is heard saying, “I understand that when mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you it is a very personal economic issue. And I will say the politics of it would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio grande, or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press. Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation.”

You can watch it here:

Concern about immigration policies has turned out to be one of the biggest factors in voter choices. This has happened despite the best efforts of media and political elites to control the conversation (and I say this as someone not particularly animated by the topic, but it’s just true). Here Cruz reinforces his bona fides on the matter, hits the media coverage of same, and makes a really good point about the debate.

That point is that the conversation controllers in higher income brackets find it easier to deal with the economic question of immigration than those in lower income brackets, where both legal and illegal immigration affect poorer Americans. This is effective because it points out the lack of charity in how immigration proponents speak about the debate, akin to how the media present those who oppose illegal immigration or seek lower immigration rates.

Regardless of your views on immigration, the country would be better served by realizing that people in every income bracket seek limits to outsider entry. If you’re wealthy, that means you live in gated communities, put your kids on travel soccer teams with other affluent children, attend expensive private grammar schools and attend college at Ivy League schools, and simply enjoy the natural barriers provided by your wealthy suburb. When you’re poorer, it might mean expressing concern about immigration. It would be nice if we all realized that we’re not so different in this regard, and had a more mature conversation about immigration.

‘Cruz Christmas Classics’

The ad “Cruz Christmas Classics” ran in Iowa during Saturday Night Live and almost looks as if Saturday Night Live itself produced it. The visual quality is strong, the commercial spoof is in the SNL style, and it’s also funnier than SNL has been in years (which is, admittedly, not saying much, but it’s genuinely funny). Here it is:

Cruz’s family is really appealing and their presence in the advertisement softens Cruz a great deal.

This ad also enraged liberal media types, including Ann Telnaes, who drafted a cartoon portraying Cruz’s children as monkeys on leashes that was so ridiculous her editors pulled it. You can read my “The 10 Stupidest Things About The Post’s Cartoon Portraying Cruz’s Children” for more.

‘Cruz Commander’

I had just been thinking about how meaningless endorsements are. Even when it comes to politicians or celebrities I like or respect, I am not particularly moved by who they endorse. But check out this advertisement (“Cruz Commander”) announcing Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson had endorsed Cruz:

The ad is visually appealing, and simple. It features Phil Robertson saying he has narrow considerations for who he supports for president. “Is he or she godly? Does he or she love us? Can he or she do the job?” he asks. Then, he adds with a glimmer in his eye, “Can they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make a good duck gumbo?”

It’s a question we all ask, in our own ways. Just kidding. But it works as a way to explain why Robertson is taking Ted Cruz duck hunting. At the end, Robertson says, “You’re one of us, my man. That’s why we’re voting for you.”

And here’s where we get to why this ad is genius.

Ted Cruz doesn’t say a word. He’s in the ad the whole time, but he doesn’t talk. He listens. That would be an intriguing approach for any political ad, but it’s particularly compelling for Cruz, who is known for his rhetoric.

I don’t know if the same team made all of these ads, but Cruz is smart to be adventurous and funny in his ad game, taking risks and using symbolism to great effect.