Cruz Attempts a Reagan Sequel with New Ad

Image: Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addresses a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington
Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addresses a legislative luncheon held as part of the "Road to Majority" conference in Washington June 18, 2015.CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

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By Kelly O'Donnell

Advisors tell NBC News that the new Cruz campaign TV ad, “Scorpion” came out of a “deliberate” attempt to imitate the man and the message referring to one of the most famous ads in modern politics, “The Bear” from Ronald Reagan in 1984.

“It’s almost line for line,” Cruz advisor told Rick Tyler told NBC News, “It mimics the (Reagan) ad beautifully.”

Not just paying homage to Reagan, Cruz's team says the larger times we live in, the threat environment and the setting for tonight’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library all influenced this advertising choice.

Advisors said with Iran, Russia and radical Islam posing threats today, they see a link to the challenges faced by the Carter administration when Iran and the Soviet Union were American foes. The ad seeks to evoke the Reagan style leadership that led to the defeat of the Soviet Union. The Soviet bear has evolved to a Jihadist threat depicted by a desert predator.

While George W. Bush’s “Wolves” ad in 2004 utilized natural enemy imagery, it did not track the Reagan ad so closely.

Cruz’s “Scorpion” will air in all four early states with time purchased on CNN during the debate and then in the same states on FOX News during the post-debate coverage. Tyler said the campaign is spending $33-thousand, “It’s a relatively inexpensive buy for the number of eyeballs.” Back in 1984, public reaction to the “The Bear” ad actually prompted public sympathy for bears. But times have changed. Tyler quipped, “Nobody is sticking up for scorpions.”

Team Cruz declined to disclose which advertising firm produced the “Scorpion.”

On preparations for tonight’s debate, Cruz advisors say, “We’re very happy with our positioning in the race.” They note that the Texas Tea Party favorite has “moved closer to the center” of the stage based on his rise in polling. Advisors say “we don’t anticipate getting into the food fight.” Cruz has consistently avoided personal attacks on other candidates and has publicly adhered to Reagan’s 11th commandment “never to speak ill of another Republican.” Cruz is expected to fully engage on issues like defunding Planned Parenthood, religious liberty, Obamacare and more conservative favorites.

Looking at the competition, Tyler said, ” Mr. Trump doesn’t have to make any first impressions. There are others on the stage who do have to make first impressions.” But Trump aides argue, “Our support has doubled.”

With his schedule cleared, Cruz is expected to spend time alone to get “mentally prepared.” Before the first debate, Cruz spent time with his father, minister Rafael Cruz and “they prayed together.”