RALEIGH, NC—In what many political observers are calling a new low in an election season that has already seen its share of negative campaigning, a scathing anti–Ted Cruz attack ad airing this week reportedly shows nothing more than a still photograph of the Texas senator’s face for 30 seconds, unaccompanied by any text, voiceover, or music.
The pointed TV spot—which continues on in complete silence and does not pan across or zoom in on the candidate’s face, but merely holds steady on the image for half a minute before fading to black—is said to be running in several states with upcoming primaries and is paid for by a super PAC opposed to Cruz’s presidential bid.
“This is an extremely vicious jab at Ted Cruz, and one that succeeds in painting the candidate in a most unfavorable light,” said Douglas Reisenthaler, a senior analyst with Public Policy Polling, who described the ad as by far the most unrelenting and hostile attack to air since the 2016 election cycle began. “Inevitably, some voters will be turned off by the maliciousness of showing an unretouched headshot of Ted Cruz on television screens across America, but it has nonetheless proved very effective in turning public opinion against his candidacy.”
He added, “Everywhere this ad has aired, Cruz’s numbers have gone into complete free-fall.”
The Cruz campaign has been vocal in its criticism of what it describes as an underhanded smear tactic, with spokeswoman Alice Stewart saying the televised photo not only crosses the line, but is also difficult to watch. While admitting some amount of mudslinging is to be expected in a competitive race at the national level, she called airing a static image of Cruz’s bare countenance without interruption for the full duration of an ad “sick” and “truly repulsive.”
A representative from the organization responsible for the commercial, Believe in Liberty PAC, defended its actions, noting that while attack ads often digitally alter photographs to make a candidate appear more unflattering or even menacing, the picture it used of the 45-year-old presidential hopeful was completely undoctored and thus did not misrepresent or mislead in any way. Regardless, many viewers told reporters they found the anti-Cruz commercial inexcusable.
“It’s absolutely revolting, and I can’t believe they would run something like that on television,” said Dorothy Chalmers, a Dillsboro, NC mother who saw the ad with her three small children. “I immediately turned it off, of course, but I had to talk with my kids about what we had just seen. It was so nasty and unpleasant, my youngest one started to cry. Is this the kind of low-blow campaigning we can expect to endure through November?”
“After watching the ad, though, I definitely won’t be voting for Ted Cruz,” she continued. “How could you after seeing that?”