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Texas presidential hopeful Ted Cruz vows not to cut deals with Democrats in a fresh TV ad that closes by showing the should-be-familiar-to-voters visage of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.
After Cruz makes his vows to the camera, a female narrator is heard saying: "No wonder conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are saying" as Limbaugh’s face comes on the screen and his voice is heard, saying: "…There is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz."
Next, Limbaugh is heard saying: "This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan."
We found that Limbaugh was even more emphatic, calling Cruz "the closest living thing to Ronald Reagan we're ever gonna have in our lifetimes."
Voters could take that as a full-throated holler in Cruz’s favor.
But the Limbaugh moment in Cruz’s ad doesn't fully reflect the commentator’s recent remarks--especially because Limbaugh also praised another high-profile candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Our search for "Cruz" and "Reagan" on Limbaugh’s website led us to the transcript of a segment of Limbaugh’s Feb. 16 radio program. The transcript shows Limbaugh indeed likened Cruz to Reagan, who’s venerated on the right, but he also prefaced his comparison with a qualifier.
On his program, Limbaugh arrived at his Cruz-Reagan likening after describing his sense that some people wonder where "conservatism" has gone within the Republican Party.
From Limbaugh’s remarks according to the Limbaugh-posted transcript:
"Where is all the conservatism? Is it on Fox News? Is it National Review? Is it over at the American Spectator? Where is it? It isn't in the Republican Party. That is for darn sure, and so many people are livid about that. I'm talking about the party establishment.
"Yes, Ted Cruz. Look, what more do you want me to say? Ted Cruz is the closest living thing to Ronald Reagan we're ever gonna have in our lifetimes. I don't know what more I can say about Ted Cruz."
Yet that’s not the end of Limbaugh’s commentary.
He immediately added: "I also like Marco Rubio, in comparison to other options and choices. People get mad at me for that." Limbaugh then mentioned Rubio’s role in advocating for the bipartisan "Gang of 8" immigration legislation that once cleared the Senate and admonished listeners who might think he was getting fooled about Rubio to know better.
Generally, Limbaugh said, there "isn't perfection in a candidate. There's no utopia, there's no perfection anywhere. That doesn't mean that you settle."
Limbaugh closed the segment:
"I'm just advocating an honest perspective on things. I can't come up with a reason to hate Marco Rubio like some people. I can't come up with a reason to dislike Rubio, just like I can't come up with a reason to hate Ted Cruz.
"People come at me, ‘You can't be serious what you said about Ted Cruz. Really?’ And if I told you the kind of people saying it to me, you'd totally understand who they are. Ted Cruz scares a lot of people simply 'cause he mentions God. Ted Cruz scares a lot of people 'cause he looks to the heavens when he talks about God. That scares a lot of people."
After we posted this story, we realized we hadn’t tracked down all of what Cruz shared from Limbaugh.
That is, Limbaugh qualified his reference to Cruz as the only choice for president saying that singular choice applied to voters focused on conservative values.
Excerpt from Limbaugh’s posted transcript from his Feb. 10 program:
"If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote, there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan."
"In terms of doctrinaire, understandable, articulated, implementable conservatism, there's nobody closer."
UPDATE, 11 a.m., Feb. 19, 2016: After this story posted, we recognized we’d failed to explore all of how Cruz’s ad excerpted Limbaugh’s comments. We updated this story to include information from Limbaugh’s Feb. 10 show.
Press release, "Stop" TV:60 Highlights Cruz’s Opposition To Washington Dealmaking," Ted Cruz campaign, Feb. 18, 2016
Transcripts, segments of The Rush Limbaugh Show, "If Conservatism Is Your Only Priority, There Is No Choice Other Than Ted Cruz," Feb. 10, 2016; "The Mister Big of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Explains What's Going On: Perfection Is Not an Option, Folks," Feb. 16, 2016