Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 - 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.
Appearing at Southern Methodist University, the candidates exchanged rhetorical blows on just about every single question, showing off sharp differences that have always been evident in the race.
The next two debates are scheduled for September 30 in Houston and October 16 in San Antonio.
National attention in the race has grown as O'Rourke has raised more money than Cruz.
After a concise summary of the importance of the Supreme Court's Heller decision which reaffirmed an individual right to bear arms, Mr. Cruz ended his remarks declaring Mr. O'Rourke is about "writing the Second Amendment out of the Bill of Rights. I think this is by design for the O'Rourke campaign, they've wanted to create that visual sense that they are making inroads in hostile territory", Wilson added.
O'Rourke replied: "True to form".
"The challenge for O'Rourke is to show that he is more than just a charisma candidate, that he's more than just a pretty face or an empty suit, that he really does have command of the policy issues", Wilson said.
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O'Rourke, though, faulted Cruz for not opposing Trump more and said the president undermines American democratic institutions.
O'Rourke began by praising Cruz's work ethic and his family's sacrifice. He then suggested he wants the woman who accused him of sexual assault to testify "respectfully" before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mr. O'Rourke, in turn, did not deny he favors higher taxes but stressed instead a format he said favors the wealthy and stands as a misguided move for a nation deeply in debt.
"I've got a responsibility, which is to fight for everybody here and every person in this state", he said.
The vast differences between the two candidates on nearly every hot topic were on display, particularly immigration and border security.
Cruz recalled meeting with students and teachers from the school.
Alternating yard signs for Cruz and O'Rourke line the front lawns in the neighborhood, which is not unlike other areas of the country where Republicans find themselves on defense in 2018, facing voters that have traditionally voted Republican but may be disillusioned with the first years of the Donald Trump presidency.