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O'Rourke Lays Into Cruz During Debate  10/17 06:35

   SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Democrat Beto O'Rourke abandoned his usual message of 
unity and optimism on Tuesday and laid into Ted Cruz, hoping to reverse polls 
that show him fading against the Republican incumbent during the second debate 
of a Texas Senate race that's become one of the nation's most closely watched.

   During the opening moments, Cruz criticized O'Rourke for past votes 
supporting a never-enacted oil production tax that might have hit oil-rich 
Texas hard. O'Rourke responded by evoking a moniker Donald Trump bestowed on 
the senator when the pair were bitter rivals during the 2016 Republican 
presidential primary, saying, "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.

   With Election Day just three weeks away, Tuesday might be one of O'Rourke's 
last shots to gain ground. It was the race's last scheduled debate after one in 
Houston was canceled amid Senate floor votes on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

   Cruz wants to participate in a previously scheduled townhall featuring just 
O'Rourke in the U.S.-Mexico border city of McAllen on Thursday night, but it's 
unclear if that will come together in time.

   The pair used this matchup to clash on abortion regulations, climate change, 
the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and a border wall backed 
by the Trump administration. Things never got nasty or overly personal --- the 
borrowed "Lyin' Ted" was the only name-calling, but both candidates tried to 
impress voters by criticizing their opponent's records.

   When O'Rourke said he wanted to expand federally funded health care to more 
Americans, Cruz said the congressman agreed with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 
and supported socialized medicine that would cost trillions and require 
sky-high tax increases. O'Rourke accused Cruz of not doing enough to stand up 
to Trump when it came to Russia and that the state needs a "full-time senator" 
rather than someone who concentrates on running for president.

   Even when Cruz tried to say that he and O'Rourke were somewhat in agreement 
on opposing the Trump administration's higher tariffs on foreign-made goods, 
O'Rourke drew laughs by replying, "Really interesting to hear you talk about 
the partisan circus after your six years in the Senate," a reference to Cruz's 
days as a tea party insurgent who battled the President Barack Obama at every 
turn.

   O'Rourke, who is giving up his El Paso congressional seat to challenge Cruz, 
shattered Senate fundraising records with any eye-popping $38-plus million in 
the three-month period through September. The Democrat has a campaign war chest 
worth $22.9 million, more than double Cruz's about $11.3 million in cash 
on-hand.

   Cruz kept O'Rourke on the defensive when they debated last month in Dallas, 
and O'Rourke --- who had stuck to a bipartisan, feel-good message for months 
--- kept a promise to sharpen his tone Tuesday night's in front of a live 
audience of 120 people hosted by KENS-5, the CBS affiliate.

   He also noted that his monster fundraising has come without accepting 
donations from outside political groups, but Cruz said O'Rourke still "goes 
with the left-wing national activists and left-wing national donors."

   In response to a question about the #MeToo movement, O'Rourke said Cruz 
"inexplicably" voted against the Violence Against Women Act, saying the senator 
was "all talk and no action." Cruz countered that the movement "had done an 
incredible amount of good for this country" and that people of both sexes need 
to be protected from harassment and abuse.

   Even though Cruz looks to be in a better position than earlier in the race, 
Trump is taking the once unthinkable step of staging a rally in a state that's 
so reliably conservative, heading Monday to an 8,000-seat Houston arena. The 
president carried Texas by a relatively small nine points in 2016. Still, Cruz 
has been a full-throated supporter of Trump's since they battled during the 
presidential race --- and hopes that the joint appearance will assuage some 
conservatives around the state who were angered by the past animosity.


(KA)

 
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