Cruz, O'Rourke face off in first debate

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24 September, 2018

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.

The topic of the debate is domestic policy, and it will be moderated by NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers.

Signs of a victory by O'Rourke, a US congressman from El Paso, in deep-red Texas would likely herald a nationwide Democratic voter wave that could be catastrophic for Republicans.

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. But O'Rourke said the senator "has a tendency to mischaracterize a position".

The debate was testy through the last question of the night. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); O'Rourke did what he could to distance himself from modern Democrats.

"That's not true", Mr. O'Rourke rejoined, before expressing what he said were common sense moves Congress can make to ensure "weapons of war belong on the battlefield and not in public life".

Political analyst Charlie Cook, described as one of the "best in the business" by both Republicans and Democrats, today changed his race rating for the Texas Senate race to toss-up from "lean Republican". But what stood out was O'Rourke's combative posture toward Cruz after spending his campaign until this point largely ignoring the incumbent. "I've got to say, [PETA] summed up the entire election", Cruz said. Re-election should have been easy for Cruz, but instead he is fending off a challenge from a social media-savvy Democrat who draws significant crowds.

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Cruz said 'absolutely, ' but didn't elaborate while calling the allegations serious.

Cruz shot back at O'Rourke that "nowhere in his answer did he address" that, in Cruz's view, kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to veterans. "Vast majority of police officers are courageous, honorable, and risk their lives keeping us safe; it's wrong to smear them as racists".

These wildly different numbers speak to the difficulty of gauging who will go to the polls in Texas - the state has among the worst voter turnout rate in the nation, and it remains to be seen how much Democratic enthusiasm for O'Rourke will shift those numbers.

Their first debate Friday night reinforced Cruz's doubling down on unabashed conservatism that has proved a victor in Texas for decades, offering no compromise on hardline immigration measures or gun control, months after a mass shooting at a high school near Houston. Cruz painted O'Rourke as a far-left ideologue beholden to "liberal interests".

Among the issues that O'Rourke had with Cruz's proposed debate schedule was every one fell on a Friday evening during high school football season.

The second debate will be in Houston on September 30. The deadline to register to vote is October 9.


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