The final debate between Sen. Ted Cruz, the incumbent Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, took place Tuesday night in San Antonio. The prior two debates between them had been fairly cordial affairs, but the gloves came off last night with O’Rourke trailing in recent polls, it was time to go on offense. Here are some stories from around the political world on impressions from the debate and what it means for the race heading into the final weeks.
In case you’re interested, here is the entire debate video, which lasts about an hour, of the final Cruz/O’Rourke debate from Oct. 16:
The Chicago Tribune wrote that O’Rourke laid in to Cruz, deciding to shed his typically mild-mannered approach about ideas and instead decided to go after Cruz’s credibility, complete with references to ‘Lyin Ted, the nickname coined for Cruz by Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign:
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He’s going to make up positions and votes that I’ve never held.”
“It’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted,” O’Rourke said “and its why the nickname stuck because it’s true.”
A former Ivy League debate champion, Cruz shot back, “It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack.”
Democrats have long dreamed about a growing Hispanic population helping to flip Texas from red to blue and shaking up the electoral map. But polls that once showed O’Rourke within striking distance of a monumental upset now suggest Cruz may be edging further ahead. No Democrat has won any of Texas’ nearly 30 statewide offices since 1994, the country’s longest political losing streak.
The Houston Chronicle noted that O’Rourke took the first shot this time, going on offense almost immediately which clearly was a strategic move made by the campaign:
O’Rourke took the first shot in the debate when he attacked Cruz for paying more than $5 million for political services from Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that accessed private information from 50 million Facebook users to influence voters in the 2016 presidential election.
“The very company that helped to undermine our democracy,” said O’Rourke, who also blasted Cruz for failing to stand up to President Donald Trump: “He won’t stand up to him, and he won’t stand up for us.”
Cruz faulted O’Rourke for votes against special tax benefits for victims of Hurricane Harvey and for votes that he said would effectively result in a $10 a barrel tax on oil. “That would have been absolutely devastating to the state of Texas,” Cruz said.
He called O’Rourke’s record on energy and in favor of abortion rights “extreme.” He also repeatedly criticized O’Rourke for saying he would be open to impeaching Trump, a move that Cruz said would lead to a “political circus.”
O’Rourke reminded viewers of Cruz’s role in a 2013 government shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act, which O’Rourke supports. “It’s really interesting for you to talk about a partisan circus, after your last six years in the U.S. Senate,” O’Rourke said, to laughter in the small studio audience.
Tuesday’s debate took place less than a week before early voting in the midterm election begins Oct. 22.
The Hill reports that even President Trump got into the act, taunting O’Rourke after the debate on twitter, of course:
President Trump on Wednesday attacked Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), calling him a “flake” and saying he “is not in the same league” as his opponent in the Texas Senate race, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R).
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Ted is strong on Crime, Border & 2nd A, loves our Military, Vets, Low Taxes. Beto is a Flake!”
Whether it will pay off for O’Rourke to remind Texas voters that Cruz and Trump seemed to hate each other during the 2016 campaign remains to be seen. Perhaps he’s hoping he can jog the memories Trump voters, in particular, of the bitterness between the two with the hope that maybe they’ll just decide to stay home and not vote at all. This makes the upcoming Cruz/Trump rally in Houston on Oct. 22 all that more important to show unity between the camps.