Cruz, O’Rourke getting combative in close Texas Senate race

Cruz's tweets have hit a moral rock bottom

Cruz's tweets have hit a moral rock bottom

O'Rourke is giving up his El Paso-based U.S. House seat to challenge Cruz.

Texas voters were treated Friday evening to a Senate debate conducted throughout at an extremely high level that presented a stark contrast between full-blown conservatism and liberalism.

The series opener takes place at 6 p.m.at Southern Methodist University, with the next two are scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30 in Houston and Tuesday, Oct. 16, in San Antonio.

O'Rourke's candidacy has generated widespread enthusiasm among national Democrats, but his chances of defeating Cruz, one of the GOP's most high-profile and controversial figures, remain unclear. Most polls indicate the election is now too close to confidently predict.

The race has massive implications for the battle for the U.S. Senate. The Democrats haven't won a Texas statewide office since 1994. The state legal limit at the time was 0.10.

O'Rourke, though, faulted Cruz for not opposing Trump more and said the president undermines American democratic institutions. He is turning to the White House for help. Trump is expected to appear at a rally in Texas with Cruz next month.

When Cruz tried to say O'Rourke wanted to abolish the Second Amendment, the Democrat said it wasn't so, and the candidates sniped while the moderators pleaded for them to stop and for the audience to stop hooting.

In the debate, the two candidates clashed over issues such as immigration, gun rights, trade, and protests of the National Anthem, with O'Rourke frequently complaining that Cruz was misrepresenting his positions.

From Cruz's point of view, the clip is damning of his opponent.

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Of course, ridiculing O'Rourke for his name is a bold move for a man christened Rafael and makes Cruz seem a touch mean.

"I think Congressman O'Rourke is passionate, he is energetic, he believes what he is fighting for", Cruz said. "I know that he's doing it for one reason".

Cruz shot back that he became a Republican in part because of the party's support for civil rights, while Democrats in the South supported Jim Crow laws.

"In 2016, he missed half of the votes in the United States Senate", O'Rourke said. Cruz understands that his victory requires overwhelming support and turnout from whites, and he believes that if his opponent is seen as representing African-Americans and their dismay with the system, it will cause a white backlash from which he will benefit. "How do you respond to critics who say that as it relates to President Trump, you've lost your dignity?"

O'Rourke went first and noted that both he and Cruz have small children - and it's tough to leave them to do their jobs. "It's the first time he is being directly confronted with his policies", said campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller.

Cruz said he did not "intend to get into Congressman O'Rourke's personal history, but I will keep the focus on issues" - and then pointed out O'Rourke introduced legislation that would have effectively ended the automatic suspension of driver's licenses for those convicted of drug offenses.

After the debate, O'Rourke was asked whether Texas is "really ready for a vision that sounds socialist".

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll gave O'Rourke a slight edge, with 47 percent to Cruz's 45 percent That came on the heels of a Quinnipiac University survey that showed Cruz up by 9 percentage points.

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