HOUSTON — On Tuesday night, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will square off in San Antonio for their second debate in their battle for U.S. Senate.
After record fundraising, national coverage and shifting poll numbers, how much of a difference will Tuesday’s debate make, and what are the keys to success for each candidate?
Both Sen. Cruz and Rep. O’Rourke have been fighting to boost turnout in the final weeks before the November 6 election.
“What they’ll be doing is almost talking past each other,” said Bob Stein, Rice University political science professor and KHOU political analyst. “It’ll be a repeat of the first one.”
Stein says each candidate will come into this debate with a different list of must-dos. For O’Rourke: staying cool when Cruz attacks, staying on message, and talking to young people that typically don’t vote.
“He’s talking about a different way to do politics: bipartisan, getting along with people,” said Stein.
For Cruz, Stein says there are fewer pitfalls. He says the incumbent Senator’s main goal: motivating his base.
“He’s trying to say, ‘This is not a candidate for Texas. This is not your kind of people,’” said Stein.
As for the record $38.1 million O’Rourke raised in the third quarter of 2018, Stein thinks it shows the El Paso Congressman is “a national celebrity”, but he’s skeptical it’ll help narrow Cruz’s project 9-point lead in the most recent polls.
“I wouldn’t be shocked to see (O’Rourke) pull off a victory here, but I’d be very surprised,” said Stein, who thinks the Senate battle will be the closest statewide race in “a very, very long time.”
Stan Stanart, Harris County Clerk, thinks it’ll help draw big turnout. Stanart says his office has already sent out over 104,000 mail-in ballots, easily breaking records.
Early voting begins Monday, October 22.