A new television ad released by Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) campaign Thursday savaged real-estate mogul Donald Trump as exhibiting a “pattern of sleaze” throughout his decades-old business career.
The ad focuses on Trump’s history of embracing eminent domain, which empowers the government to compel people to sell private property. The issue, which has long been criticised by conservatives, has become a frequent source of criticism for Trump on the campaign trail.
Cruz’s spot centres on Trump’s attempted use of eminent domain in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1990s. Then, Trump had been investing in the city’s casino empire. It features a widow, Vera Coking, who refused to sell her home and successfully fought the state’s attempt to seize her land in order to allow Trump to build a casino parking lot.
“Heart? He doesn’t have no heart, that man,” Coking says in a clip of a televised interview featured in the ad.
The ad went on to accuse Trump of a “pattern of sleaze stretching back decades.” It then noted how Trump has remained supportive of eminent domain on the campaign trail.
Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, has defended eminent domain as necessary for public projects. Last week during a debate exchange with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Trump called eminent domain a “necessity” and pointed to the Keystone XL pipeline, a popular project among Republican voters.
“And a lot of the big conservatives that tell me how conservative they are, I think I’m more than they are, they tell me, oh, well, they all want the Keystone pipeline,” he said. “The Keystone pipeline, without eminent domain, it wouldn’t go 10 feet, OK? You need eminent domain. And eminent domain is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Trump and Cruz are battling for a victory in the South Carolina primary on February 20 after splitting victories in the first two nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Polls from mid-January found Trump with comfortable double-digit leads.
The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Trump retweeted an apparent supporter who called Cruz the “definition of sleaze”:
Earlier on Thursday, Trump accused the “Cruz people” of conducting “push polls” on the candidate. Push polls are designed to influence a person’s feelings about a certain topic under the guise of conducting a public poll.
When asked for comment on Trump’s accusation, a Cruz campaign spokesman told Business Insider: “It’s not us.”
Watch the Cruz campaign ad below:
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