Ahead of next month’s crucial midterm elections, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) squared up against challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) as the two political opposites largely played to their own crowds.
The candidates sparred over healthcare, tax cuts and border security, in the final debate of a race that has captured the nation’s attention and, for O’Rourke, has drawn a record-breaking $38 million in donations in just three months, many of these from out-of-state supporters.
In San Antonio on Tuesday night, O’Rourke struck a combative tone, and tried to paint Cruz as a self-serving elitist, beholden to corporate interests. When Cruz implied that O’Rourke had at one point supported a $10-per-barrel oil tax, O’Rourke denied this, and referenced one of President Trump’s 2016 nicknames for Cruz, perhaps the only time the punk-rocking, skateboarding Democrat will ever give Trump credit.
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you…it’s why the president called him ‘Lying Ted’, and it’s why the nickname stuck,” Rep. Beto O’Rourke attacks Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during their final debate before the midterm election in November Tuesday https://t.co/zx11ahFiDTpic.twitter.com/BLMPB1cjPa
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 17, 2018
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you,” O’Rourke said. “He’s dishonest, and it’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted, and it’s why the nickname stuck — because it’s true.”
“It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz replied.
Cruz in turn tried to portray O’Rourke as “extreme” and a radical, and said his support for “Bernie Sanders’ socialized medicine” would “triple your taxes.”
With the Mexican border a two-hour drive away, talk of walls featured prominently.
Cruz attacked O’Rourke’s position on immigration, an issue polls say is a top priority for Texas voters. O’Rourke supports granting an amnesty to so-called ‘Dreamers’ –illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children– and opposes the building of a border wall. Cruz, meanwhile, favors tough immigration legislation.
“Congressman O’Rourke not only opposes a wall…he wants to tear down the ones we have,” Cruz claimed.
“I care about the safety of every single person in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “No wall is going to solve legitimate security concerns, but smart policy will.”
“Let me say there’s no race in this country where there is a starker divide on immigration,” Cruz said.
Predictably, the specter of ‘Russian election meddling’ came up. O’Rourke hit out at Trump for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and accused Russia of planning to interfere in the upcoming elections. “We know they will attack us again, in this election and the next,” he said, before pledging to “stand up” to Trump on Russia.
Cruz replied that he had supported legislation to better protect ballot boxes from interference, but focused more on the “political bias of big tech, of Facebook and Google,” whom he claimed were not properly protecting free speech online.
Both candidates played to their respective bases. Cruz to conservatives and senior citizens worried that socialized healthcare and health cover for immigrants would cut into their Medicare funding; and O’Rourke to progressives, and the state’s latino voters, many of whom bitterly oppose Trump’s proposed border wall. Picking a winner on Tuesday night depended largely on which side you support already, making the discussion little more than political theatre.
Beto O’Rourke needed a blockbuster performance tonight.
He landed a few punches. But Ted Cruz landed more — many more.
3 weeks from Election Day, debate does nothing to change the trajectory of #TXSEN — Cruz comfortably ahead, Beto running out of time.
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) October 17, 2018
Sitting in Wimberley, Texas, will vote early on Monday at the community center here, just watched the Beto/Cruz debate. As an Independent, Beto wins this clearly and convincingly. Don’t know how much difference it will make, but Beto won this forum tonight.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) October 17, 2018
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) October 17, 2018
LMAO Zodiac had Beto on tilt. People forget Ted Cruz is a national debate champion. Pissing people off is his greatest talent. https://t.co/6NGTdyjWhE
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) October 17, 2018
While a CNN poll shows Cruz leading O’Rourke by seven points, the media attention and fundraising dollars on O’Rourke’s campaign has been unprecedented. Texas has not elected a Democrat to any statewide office since 1994, however, and GOP political strategist Allen Blakemore told the New York Times that “The polls are beginning to reflect the reality that is Texas — we are a conservative state where Republicans dominate.”
Watched the debate last night & Beto O’Rourke, who wants higher taxes and far more regulations, is not in the same league with Ted Cruz & what the great people of Texas stand for & want. Ted is strong on Crime, Border & 2nd A, loves our Military, Vets, Low Taxes. Beto is a Flake!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2018
Nevertheless, O’Rourke’s team are hoping to pull off a Texas-sized upset when voters go to the polls on November 6.
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