In the weeks leading up to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, supporters of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are expecting the already explosive Republican presidential campaign to become even more combative and complex as the candidates unleash a new wave of aggressive attacks, The New York Times
Starting this week, "you're going to see sharper elbows," Jon Seaton, a Republican strategist who is not affiliated with a campaign told the Times. "And by the middle of January, everybody will have their pads on and helmets buckled."
After tens of millions of dollars were spent on positive television ads to lift Bush in the polls last year, the effectiveness of positive ads instead of negative ads came under question when it failed to boost the former Florida governor.
By the end of January, The New York Times notes that the candidates and their allied groups could spend as much as $100 million on negative advertising and in turn will offer insights into whether attack ads have the power needed to boost candidates as they have in past presidential elections.
While Cruz is trying to head off Rubio, Rubio is working to stop Cruz in Iowa where he currently sits at the top of every poll. And, Rubio must also slow Chris Christie who is leading the polls in New Hampshire, which votes just after Iowa.
However, The New York Times notes that Christie and Bush are both focused on blocking Rubio from becoming the candidate to enter a three-way race between the Cruz and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Not only is the race being referred to a as a "multidimensional chess game," but with so much uncertainty looming over the race, the targets of the attack ads put forward by the candidates and the super PACs could quickly change — especially since a poll last week showed that fewer than 20 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters had definitively decided.
"The law of unintended consequences is pretty much guaranteed in this type of situation," said Republican strategist Phil Musser, according to The New York Times.
Cruz told supporters in a conference call Thursday that he is bracing himself for a relentless amount of attacks in the weeks ahead. "Strap on the full armor of God," he said.
"Come the month of January, we ain't seen nothing yet."
Trump also told supporters last week that if he is attacked, he is prepared to attack back "very much and very hard in terms of ads." However, according to The New York Times, the real estate mogul has yet to reserve any advertising time.
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