Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke emulated President Trump’s attacks in his final, fiery debate with incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday night, openly calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and charging that he was “all talk and no action” in the Senate.
The newly aggressive strategy came as polls show that O’Rourke, despite raising a record-setting $38 million in campaign funds last quarter, is lagging significantly behind Cruz with just three weeks to go until Election Day. O’Rourke announced Monday he would not share portions of that fundraising haul with other Democratic candidates.
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you,” O’Rourke said during the debate Tuesday, after Cruz described O’Rourke’s voting record on environmental issues. “He’s dishonest. It’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted, and it’s why the nickname stuck. Because it’s true.”
Cruz fired back, telling the 46-year-old O’Rourke his universal health care plans didn’t make sense using even “elementary school math” and alluding to his declining odds at the polls.
“It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz said. “So if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that’s fine.”
The debate included some lighter moments, with the candidates pausing their broadsides to describe some personal anecdotes. Cruz mentioned that he tries to stay in touch with his family while he’s in Washington using Facetime calls, and O’Rourke discussed nursing a seemingly hopeless blind squirrel and sneaking in jam sessions on a basement drum kit that he had ostensibly purchased for his son.
However, the tone was predominately sharp and testy. Cruz repeatedly told the debate moderator to stop interrupting him — most forcefully when he was condemning what he called the rise of liberal partisan incivility.
The two later sparred over Cruz’s role in the 2013 shutdown of the federal government, which he largely spearheaded as a means of opposing the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.
“You want to talk about a shutdown?” Cruz asked. “With Congressman O’Rourke leading the way, [there’ll be] two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president.”
That was a reference to O’Rourke’s stated support for impeaching President Trump, which top Democratic leaders have said would be premature.
Cruz predicted “utter chaos” if O’Rourke’s proposal of impeaching Trump became a reality.
“Washington would be consumed by partisan investigations. That’s not civility,” Cruz said, noting that he and his wife had been chased out of a Washington, D.C. restaurant recently by liberal protesters chanting, “We believe women.”