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Abbott vs. O'Rourke | Candidates prepare for high-stakes gubernatorial debate in Rio Grande Valley

It's the only debate scheduled and experts said the pressure is on O'Rourke, who is currently down in the polls, to use the debate to change his campaign's course.

EDINBURG, Texas — A lot is on the line Friday in the race for governor as incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and challenger Beto O'Rourke will meet face-to-face for their one and only debate before Election Day. 

The debate will be held in Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley but will be broadcast across the state. It begins at 7 p.m.

The stakes could not be higher. This is still a single-digit race. Abbott wants to do no harm while O'Rourke is expected to come out swinging hoping for a shakeup in the race.

You can watch the debate live on KHOU.com and on the KHOU 11 app. We will have live team coverage wrapping up the debate on KHOU 11 News at 10 p.m.

After months of political attacks from afar, Abbott and O'Rourke will get their chance to spar in person.

"No question, Beto has more pressure on him," CEO of the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation Jason Villalba said.

The latest KHOU/Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation Poll showed Abbott holding onto a 7-point lead over O'Rourke. Abbott's team wants to keep it that way.

"It's about running out the clock," Villalba said. "His (Abbott's) job is much easier. He just has to not lose."

The two will debate just miles from the border, and that's not by accident. Abbott wants to keep the focus on an influx of migrants and border security. His policies, polling shows, are popular with a majority of Texans.

"Our poll found that the top issue for voters today is border security," Villalba said.

(Live video of the debate above is courtesy KXAN/KIAH)

O'Rourke is expected to hit Abbott hard on abortion rights and his response to the Uvalde school massacre.

"For Beto O'Rourke this is your last hope to somehow change the dynamics of the race," Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said.

"He's (O'Rourke) deft on his feet. He's able to issue those one-line zingers that can make a difference and get in the news cycle," Villalba said.

RELATED: Here's how Texas voters feel about abortion, Abbott's border policies

Both men are seasoned debaters who've been on the big stage before. They'll debate for only an hour, providing little time to convince the few undecided voters that are still out there.

"If we come out of this debate with the status quo continuing, Beto will lose this election and the only question is does he lose by 6, 7, 8, 9 or 12 points," Jones said.

Before the debate, O'Rourke plans to hold a news conference with the Uvalde victim's families.

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