As GOP Texas Senator Ted Cruz continues to surge in Iowa thanks to strong support from the conservative base of Iowa evangelicals, backers of another candidate from the religious right, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, are throwing elbows.
Supporters of Huckabee, who last ran for president in 2008 and who staged an upset victory in the GOP Iowa caucus that year, have launched a series of attacks questioning Cruz’s conservatism.
During Thursday night’s GOP debate—the first one where Cruz was the center of attention due to the absence of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump—a pro-Huckabee super PAC known as Pursuing America’s Greatness ran an ad in the Des Moines media market that didn’t pull punches.
The ad features two women talking during a Bible study class about the GOP Iowa caucus, who cite Cruz’s statement to donors at a private New York City fundraiser that that he wouldn’t make gay marriage a top priority. “He tells them one thing, and Iowans another,” one of the women says in the ad.
Cruz’s entire campaign strategy in Iowa has been to cast himself as the one true social and constitutional conservative in the race.
According to Buzzfeed News, the super PAC is spending $400,000 to run the ad in the final days before the caucus in an attempt to siphon evangelical support from Cruz. The super PAC is largely funded by agribusiness magnate and religious conservative Ronald Cameron, who has kicked in a cool $3 million.
Running the TV ad, which was first introduced a few days ago, was a bold move by the Huckabee super PAC.
For Huckabee, whose polling has been mired in the single digits, a repeat performance of his 2008 success in Iowa would be a long shot. Interestingly, though, Huckabee appears to be forming something of an alliance with Trump, who is also fighting with Cruz over the evangelical vote.
Huckabee’s shots at Cruz have even fueled speculation that the former governor might throw his weight behind Trump. That speculation only intensified after Huckabee appeared at a Trump pro-veterans rally following the GOP undercard debate. That rally was also attended by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.