Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is suddenly awash in attacks from rival campaigns all hitting the same theme: He's not as pure as he looks.
From super PAC ads to debates to campaign events, candidates from every wing of the party are working to undermine Cruz's "Consistent. Conservative. Trusted," campaign slogan with alleged examples of the Texas senator flipping his positions for political expedience. The clear goal is to puncture Cruz's outsider image while tarnishing his carefully maintained brand as the field's most reliable grassroots conservative.
"Ted Cruz calculates his positions for political gain," a new ad from Conservative Solutions PAC, one of the big money groups backing Sen. Marco Rubio, declares. "In the last year alone, Cruz switched on immigration, Syrian refugees, ethanol, trade, you name it."
The ad, which mirrors similar comments from Rubio in last week's debate, highlights areas like immigration and trade promotion authority where Cruz clearly shifted his position as well as somewhat more ambiguous cases like his recent clarifications on phasing out the renewable fuel standard, which boosts the Iowa ethanol market.
More provocatively, a second ad accusing Cruz of betraying conservatism by proposing a value-added tax employed by "European socialist countries" alludes to Donald Trump's questions about the Canadian-born Cruz's eligibility. "What's Canadian about Ted Cruz? His tax plan," the ad's narrator says in the spot.
With Cruz leading Iowa polls heading into the Feb. 1 caucus, these types of attacks from outside groups and political opponents are growing louder and louder. Taken together, they represent the toughest challenge Cruz has faced yet since emerging as one of the front-runners for the nomination.
Trump, who has escalated his feud with Cruz in recent weeks, has accused Cruz of (among many other things) condemning "New York values" while raising money in the city and taking a large loan out from Goldman Sachs, where Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz has worked for years. Trump has also argued that Cruz's public support for "liberal Justice John Roberts" in 2005 undercuts his conservative record, even though Roberts was widely popular on the right at the time.
"Ted is the ultimate hypocrite," Trump tweeted over the weekend. "Says one thing for money, does another for votes."
Sen. Rand Paul's campaign raised the Goldman issue as well with a strange animated video warning that Cruz's calls to audit the Federal Reserve are compromised by his campaign contributions from the finance industry. Instead it called on voters to "Audit the Ted."
Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is primarily competing with more moderate Republicans rather than Cruz, told Time this week that Cruz's views are "very, very malleable depending upon what he considers to be politically advantageous at the moment."
Christie brought up Cruz's decision to oppose federal relief for Hurricane Sandy only to later call for federal aid for his own state of Texas in response to flooding. Once again, the message is clear: Cruz is a politician like any other.
"He's Harvard and Princeton, he's federal court clerkships, he's government jobs, and somehow he's an outsider?" Christie said. "If you took his name off and you put that résumé down, that would look like the consummate Washington insider."
Cruz has responded in kind, escalating his attacks on Trump in particular by highlighting the New York billionaire's far more tenuous relationship with conservatism and his history of contributions to prominent Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton.
"Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big government politics, supporting things like the TARP, big bank bailouts, supporting things like expanding Obamacare to turn it into socialized medicine," Cruz said in New Hampshire on Monday.