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Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke debate: Texas candidates spar in heated final battle before midterms

Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke debate: Texas candidates spar in heated final battle before midterms

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke faced off in their final senatorial debate Tuesday night, with three weeks left until the crucial midterm elections and polling showing an unprecedented opportunity for Democrats to compete in the reliably red state.
Tensions were high as the debate kicked off to a fiery start, with both candidates responding to policy questions by attacking their opponent’s track records.
“Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz,” Mr O’Rourke said of the Republican, who accused him of being the sole US senatorial candidate to publicly support the impeachment of Donald Trump.
The candidates discussed a range of domestic and foreign policy issues during their second on-stage debate together in the 2018 campaign season, ranging from civility and respect in Washington to health care and border security.
Mr O’Rourke signalled a notable difference in his non-confrontational tone towards the senator on Tuesday, attacking the incumbent over his “special relationship” to the president.
“All you heard from Senator Cruz is what we should be afraid of. It’s a campaign based on fear,” Mr O’Rourke said Tuesday night. “He’s dishonest. It’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted.”
He later added, “Our junior senator will not stand up to President Trump. He won’t stand up against him and he won’t stand up for us.”
Mr Cruz quickly met fire with fury, however, referring to the El Paso Democrat as “extreme” on the issue of border security and claiming he not only opposes a sprawling US-Mexico border wall but also wants to reduce existing security fencing throughout the region.
“I want to keep the economic boom we’re experiencing right now going forward,” the senator said, repeatedly defending his support for the GOP tax legislation passed last year. At one point, he seemingly choked up while discussing his family life, telling a story about how he was forced to miss his daughter’s sports game because it was the same night of the vote on the tax cuts.
Mr O’Rourke said his opponent’s comments resonated with him, adding that he had not spent as much time as he would like with family throughout the year due to the race.
Mr Cruz leads Mr O’Rourke by seven per cent in the latest polling, appearing to come back from a statistical dead heat over the summer. Analysts have attributed energy among Republican voters to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation battle.
The senator voted in favour of Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation — and defended that stance on Tuesday — while Mr O’Rourke has said he would not have voted for the judge based on his controversial testimony.
However, a similar energy can be seen on the opposite side of the aisle — an unusual phenomenon for Texas, which has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Mr O’Rourke recently broke records for the largest fundraising haul in a three-month period during a US senate race, topping $38mn while rejecting super PAC donations.
The Cook Political Report has labelled the Texas senatorial midterm race as a “toss up”. Meanwhile, Democratic voter registration has doubled in 2018 across the Lone Star state.