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Story highlights

Ted Cruz's supporters are launching their first strikes on the Ohio governor

Cruz's main super PAC on Tuesday began a $500,000 television, radio and digital buy in Wisconsin

Washington CNN —  

The peace is over.

Ted Cruz’s supporters, more irritated than ever by John Kasich’s insistence on staying in the Republican race, are launching their first strikes on the Ohio governor.

Cruz’s main super PAC on Tuesday began a $500,000 television, radio and digital buy in Wisconsin attacking Kasich as a “liberal governor,” the group said.

It could be a new phase in the Kasich-Cruz relationship: Cruz’s official campaign for weeks has declined to attack Kasich’s record in paid media, and the campaign’s opposition research book on him has been slow to open.

But that’s over, at least for Trusted Leadership PAC, the well-financed pro-Cruz group.

“The John Kasich playbook: holding for a last-second shot at blocking out the grassroots. But that’s classic John Kasich,” a narrator says in a new ad, titled “Kasich Won’t Play,” as Xs and Os move around a basketball court sketched on chalkboard. “Millionaires working side-by-side with George Soros are bankrolling his super PAC, while Kasich votes against the Second Amendment and expanded Obamacare in Ohio, costing taxpayers billions.”

“So given John Kasich’s liberal record, it’s no surprise his campaign isn’t rebounding. Because John Kasich won’t play in Wisconsin,” the ad concludes as a basketball shot misses badly and hits the front rim.

The argument made by Cruz and his allies is that because Kasich cannot mathematically win the GOP nomination before a contested convention, he is playing “spoiler” in the Republican race by “blocking” Cruz from having the one-on-one race he needs to beat Donald Trump. Both Cruz and Kasich have pledged to compete in Wisconsin, which could strip Cruz of the win he needs in the state to claim some momentum in the GOP contest.

Kasich has returned fire by arguing that Cruz has no chance of winning a general election, given how poorly Kasich says Cruz would fare in a general election. The Ohio governor’s campaign had said Cruz should cede states in the Northeast, where Kasich could pose the biggest threat to Trump. But the Texas senator has shown no interest in a delegate-denial alliance against Trump.

Cruz’s super PAC hits Kasich on what is his central liability with conservatives – his expansion of Medicaid, which Kasich defends – and levels some more dubious charges, such as the one that Soros funded Kasich’s super PAC (the Democratic billionaire’s associates, but not Soros himself, have cut checks).

Chris Schrimpf, a Kasich spokesman, said the ad used “Trump-style” attacks.

“Clearly a desperate attempt to smear the conservative, inclusive record of John Kasich,” he said. “All the charges are lies, which isn’t surprising coming from the Cruz operation in the last possible state to give him any delegates.”

The super PAC is spending a total of $800,000 in the Badger State – slightly less than the $1 million originally budgeted for the operation.