01:30 - Source: CNN
Verbal smackdown between Cruz and Rubio

Story highlights

Marco Rubio's campaign released a new ad Monday targeting socially conservative voters

Rubio is fighting for a key bloc of his party, which has helped fellow candidates Ben Carson and Ted Cruz

CNN  — 

Marco Rubio is making a play for “traditional values” voters with a new campaign ad targeting those who Rubio says “feel out of place in our own country.”

Challenged by the rise of GOP rival Ted Cruz, Rubio appears to be going after the same bloc of social conservative voters that has propelled Cruz to first place in Iowa in recent polls and previously buoyed Donald Trump and Ben Carson’s campaigns.

In the spare new 30-second ad, titled “About,” Rubio speaks directly to the camera as he frames the stakes of the 2016 election.

“This election is about the essence of America,” he says. “About all of us who feel out of place in our own country.”

“A government incredibly out of touch, and millions with traditional values branded bigots and haters,” Rubio said.

The pitch is a pointed appeal to the Republican Party’s social conservative base, which is critical to success in the Republican primary, and has been energized in recent years by political fights over same-sex marriage, religious liberty and abortion.

Rubio also addresses top economic and foreign policy issues in the new ad, with lines highlighting important 2016 topics like wage growth, terrorism and America’s standing in the world.

“This about the greatest country in the world – and acting like it,” Rubio says, in a line evoking Trump’s trademark slogan “Make America great again.”

Rubio has been rising in recent weeks in national and early state surveys, regularly finishing in the top three, but he has struggled to dent front-running Trump’s dominant polling lead.

Cruz’s recent surge threatens Rubio’s chance to emerge as the second option in the 2016 Republican primary.

Recognizing that dynamic, Rubio and Cruz have traded a few shots at each other in recent weeks, and the two will likely get a chance to do so again Tuesday at the last GOP primary debate of the year in Las Vegas, hosted by CNN.