CNN Analyst: ‘Unfortunately’ Majority of Polls Show O’Rourke Losing to Cruz

Anthem Protests

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Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke pinned himself in a corner during Friday night's debate with Sen.

The crowd watching the debate at Southern Methodist University Friday was most animated while Cruz and O'Rourke took on guns, police violence and mass shootings.

The pair will square off again next weekend in Cruz's hometown of Houston, and a third and final debate is set for San Antonio three weeks before the November 6 election. Once considered a safe seat for Cruz, recent polls show the candidates running within single digits of each other.

Cruz and O'Rourke mixed it up over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, which O'Rourke has defended in comments that have received national attention.

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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".

When it was his turn, Cruz said he admired O'Rourke for being passionate and believing in what he is fighting for - much like Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic socialist, Cruz noted. Cruz appeared to be referring to O'Rourke previously suggesting that inherent biases in the criminal justice system promote racism.

Mr. O'Rourke was measured in his criticism of Mr. Trump, although he did not dispute Mr. Cruz's point that Mr. O'Rourke is the only Democratic Senate candidate in these midterms who has vowed to vote to impeach Mr. Trump should the chance arise.

Cruz shot back that he became a Republican in part because of the party's support for civil rights, while Democrats in the South supported Jim Crow laws. O'Rourke drew laughs by replying simply of Cruz: "True to form".

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While Cruz and Trump were bitter rivals during the 2016 presidential race, the president and his family are working to help Cruz's campaign.

Such work would prove hard, Mr. Cruz said, given Mr. O'Rourke "has never talked to the president and wants to vote for impeachment". But O'Rourke said the senator "has a tendency to mischaracterize a position".

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.

O'Rourke first challenged Cruz to six debates in May, and while Cruz maintained he was open to debating his opponent, he did not formally respond until July.

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