There are plenty of ways that the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, could attack his challenger, Beto O'Rourke. Including some breaking-ish-news-y ways, given fresh details unearthed by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News regarding O'Rourke's drunk driving arrest 20 years ago. Which, the Chronicle and Express-News note, he's "long owned up to"—although the papers now say it was "a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported" with a "witness account of his alleged attempt to flee" the scene of the accident.
Then again, as the AP reports, "Cruz has never been arrested, but was once ticketed for underage alcohol possession when he was 17 and police stopped him and found unopened beer in his car"—so maybe he didn't want to go there. (The Cruz campaign has so far declined to comment on the Chronicle/Express-News report.)
Enter the new Cruz campaign ad above, which is the oddest attack ad you'll see ... today, at least. In it, an announcer points out that O'Rourke has been "showing up across Texas" and apparently saying "fuck" a lot—as we're led to conclude from video clips with strategically placed bleeps that leave little doubt that O'Rourke has said "fuck that," "fucked up" and such during public campaign appearances.
In an oddly cutesy tone—underscored by whimsical music—the announcer then says, "If Beto shows up in your town, maaaaaybe keep the kids at home." Cue a shot of a smiling, athletic-looking O'Rourke jogging down the street, as the announcer closes with "Beto O'Rourke: He's showing the [bleep] up" (those same words appear on screen with "#@%*" instead of the bleep).
Wait a second. A politician "showing up across Texas" sounds like a good thing—and then the announcer decides to criticize O'Rourke for being foul-mouthed by swearing himself (thus the bleep)?
If Beto O'Rourke loses one vote because of this strangely pious attack ad, well, h-e-double-hockey-sticks.
Ad Age's 2018 midterm Campaign Trail coverage is taking a close look at the marketing and media messaging of congressional and gubernatorial campaigns across the country. Stay tuned at adage.com/campaigntrail.