Marco Rubio speaks on Feb. 16, 2016 in Summerville, S.C.
Matt Rourke—AP
February 16, 2016 7:47 PM EST

The campaign of Marco Rubio is accusing rival Texas Senator Ted Cruz of using “dishonest push-polls” to attack its candidate, releasing a robocall of its own to “alert” voters in South Carolina to the supposed effort.

The call, which will hit 500,000 South Carolina phone numbers, features Rubio surrogate and South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy — who chairs the House Benghazi Committee — repeating a report in the Washington Post that the Cruz campaign is behind the calls. The Cruz campaign has repeatedly denied its involvement in the calls, suggesting it is being framed.

“I want to alert you to the fact that voters are receiving dishonest push-polls smearing my friend Marco Rubio’s conservative record,” Gowdy says in the 54-second message. “Sadly, the Washington Post discovered these calls have been linked to the Cruz campaign. The truth is Marco Rubio is a rock-solid conservative. He’s a committed Christian who will protect all life, defend traditional marriage, cut spending and enforce our immigration laws.”

The Gowdy call comes as the war of words between the two candidates has escalated in recent weeks, and as Rubio has accused Cruz of lying about his record (a charge the Cruz campaign disputes). Part of the reason for the new bitterness is that Rubio’s campaign believes it competes most directly with Cruz for the support of voters in the first-in-the-South primary state.

Cruz spokesman Brian Philips had hard words for the Rubio call.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for the Rubio campaign to put out a robocall that lies to South Carolina voters and then falsely accuse the Cruz campaign of the same thing,” he said. “Obviously Rubio would rather spend time and money running negative robocalls than talking about his record. Perhaps it’s because if voters knew Rubio still supports amnesty, skipped votes on defense spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, and voted for John Kerry to be Secretary of State, they’d prefer someone who’s a consistent conservative like Ted Cruz.”

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