The heavily financed network of super PACs backing Sen. Ted Cruz targeted Sen. Marco Rubio -- an unabashed football fan -- on Monday with a new ad campaign that paints the Florida Republican as unprepared for the presidency.
Keep the Promise, an alliance of a handful of pro-Cruz groups, will put $1 million behind the campaign, according to The Washington Post
, which first reported the ad.
starts with dramatic music and images of U.S. enemies, with subtitles across the screen declaring America is under attack. It then cuts to "what Marco Rubio's leadership would look like," followed by a clip borrowed from a Rubio campaign video in which he says, huddled over a laptop, "I know I have a debate, but I've got to get this fantasy football thing right."
The ad never mentions Cruz.
The Rubio video
that was borrowed for the ad was released ahead of the October GOP debate. It was a tongue-in-cheek spot made by the campaign in which Rubio asks for an update on Cruz, Bush and Carson -- all last names of his opponents -- then clarifies he means NFL stars Victor Cruz, Reggie Bush and Carson Palmer.
Rubio's camp went after his Senate colleague over the video, criticizing Cruz's super PACs for hypocrisy. In contrast with Rubio's soft spot for football, his team pointed out the Texas senator's love of pop culture and impressions.
"Wonder which Cruz-Simpson character @tedcruz PAC thinks is best prepared to lead the country?" Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder tweeted with a link to a video of Cruz doing "Simpsons" impressions.
"Next attack ad ... @tedcruz can't take on ISIS because he's only on level 217 of 'Candy Crush,'" Pounder added with a link to an article about how Cruz loves video games.
Rubio adviser Todd Harris piled on: "Fantasy football = unpresidential, but quoting entire scenes from Princess Bride is, what, Reaganesque?"
Super PACs are not legally allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but support candidates with ads largely in line with their messaging.
Rubio and Cruz have been increasingly going after each other on the campaign trail as they compete for Republican voters who may be looking for an alternative to front-runner Donald Trump.
The two Cuban-American freshmen senators are both sitting in the top four candidates in the polls and have seen bumps after strong debate performances.