Ted Cruz is American and he wants to make sure every voter in Texas knows it. However, Cruz says David Dewhurst, his opponent in the race for a Texas Senate seat, is using Cruz's Cuban heritage for attack fodder.
Cruz's father is Cuban, a political refugee who fled to Texas before Fidel Castro took power, with $100 sewn inside his underwear. It's a story Cruz is rather proud of.
But last week, Dewhurst released a bombshell of a radio ad claiming Cruz supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. The ad immediately sparked accusations of "bigotry" from the Cruz camp, who said their candidate "categorically opposes amnesty." Cruz said the ad had everything to do with his heritage, calling it "race-baiting" on his website and telling supporters in Roundrock, Texas that his opponent's advisers must think "anyone with a 'Z' in their name is unelectable" in the state.
In the Austin Statesman, Dewhurst spokesman Matt Hirsch said Cruz's response was merely a sign of desperation.
The debate may have ended there, except Dewhurst, who was once the front-runner, did not get a majority vote in Tuesday's primary, meaning Cruz has secured a place in the July 31 runoff.
Julian Mulvey, co-founder of and partner at political consulting firm Devine Mulvey, said he thinks the ad has the "potential to linger."
"You have to assume that the Dewhurst people have carefully tested this message and... found this to be a potentially potent attack," Mulvey told Whispers. "If they are drawing blood on it, you can expect to see more of [the issue], certainly."
Cruz seems ready for it.
In remarks to supporters in Houston Tuesday night, Cruz called for five debates with Dewhurst over the next two months.
"If he wants to make the case ... that he thinks I'm an amnesty-supporting, China-loving pinko liberal, then I encourage him to do so - in person," Cruz said.
Calls to Cruz's and Dewhurst's campaign offices were not immediately returned.
LISTEN to Dewhurst's ad below:
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