Is Ted Cruz ‘Tough as Texas?’ These Richard Linklater-Directed Ads Doubt It

A Whataburger slam won't play well in the Lone Star State

Not a happy camper. - Credit by Fire Ted Cruz
Headshot of Shannon Miller

As we near closer and closer to the midterm elections, the onslaught of political ad campaigns tend to get noticeably more desperate. However, some of the most effective ads choose to implement simple logic over mudslinging or obnoxious tactics. One ad spot directed by filmmaker Richard Linklater poses a simple question: “Is Ted Cruz ‘Tough as Texas?’” According to one determined super PAC … no, not really.

In a 33-second spot from Fire Ted Cruz—a super PAC that is not affiliated with Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke—actor Sonny Carl Davis is sitting in a Texas diner, challenging the merits of Cruz’s re-election slogan, “Tough as Texas.” With a mug of coffee in hand, Davis laughs off any notion of Cruz being even remotely as tough as he claims to be.

“If somebody called my wife a dog, and said my daddy was in on the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn’t be kissing their ass,” Davis reasons, referring to the specific and very public treatment Cruz received from Donald Trump during the Presidential race. The below-the-belt remarks and baseless accusations did nothing to deter Cruz from ultimately endorsing Trump which, like Davis, many found perplexing. All things considered, Davis’ logic here is difficult to refute.

The actor then proceeds to suggest just what you should do, should you find yourself in the same position. “You stick your finger in their chest and tell ‘em a few choice words,” he encourages. He also offers a slightly more violent choice, but the point remains. Supporting your bully doesn’t quite ring as the actions of a confident leader, and any person basing their candidacy on the notion of toughness should probably understand that. To quote Davis: “C’mon, Ted.”

Fire Ted Cruz is a grassroots organization that aims to educate voters on just why they feel Cruz is an unfit senator. Their ad is actually an homage to Linklater’s 2011 film Bernie, which included a similar scene that also included actor Davis.


Sonny Carl Davis still doesn’t understand Ted Cruz. This time, in a follow-up, the Bernie actor is calling out the sitting senator for a serious Texan sin: praising White Castle over the local favorite, Whataburger.

Davis questions Cruz’s choice to refer to senate race opponent Beto O’Rourke as a “triple meat Whataburger liberal.” As far as insults go, it’s a puzzling one, to say the least.

“What does that even mean, Ted,” Davis understandably asks in the second spot directed by Richard Linklater. “I mean, everybody I know in Texas likes Whataburger.” He continues by pointing out that there isn’t even a local White Castle, guessing that the closest one is located 900 miles away. “Maybe up in Canada, but not in Texas.”

Like the last ad spot, “Ted Cruz Loves White Castle” isn’t about policy, but more about whether or not Cruz is a good representation of famously tough, Whataburger-loving state. While deciding to pick apart a throwaway comment about fast food may come across as petty, it’s hard to ignore his choice to invoke a Corpus Christi-founded establishment as an insult while praising a chain that isn’t even available in his home state, where he wishes to remain in office. It begs the question, just how out of touch with Texas is he?

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Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: October 10, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT