Falling behind in the polls and running out of time, the Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate went on the attack against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in a raucous debate in Texas on Tuesday night, calling him dishonest and resurrecting President Donald Trump's campaign nickname, "Lyin' Ted".
A former Ivy League debate champion, Cruz shot back, "It's clear Mr. O'Rourke's pollsters have told him to come out on the attack".
"He voted to add $2 trillion dollars", O'Rourke said while answering a question about America's debt, which has mushroomed since Republicans passed a controversial tax cut. "It's why the president called him Lyin' Ted, and it's why the nickname stuck".
Cruz fired back, telling O'Rourke his universal health care plans didn't make sense even using "elementary school math" and alluded to his declining odds at the polls.
Cruz wants to participate in a previously scheduled townhall featuring just O'Rourke in the U.S. -Mexico border city of McAllen on Thursday night, but it's unclear if that will come together in time. And he sought to use the GOP president against Cruz, who clashed with Trump on the campaign trail in 2016.
But O'Rourke's feel-good message exposed vulnerability during the first debate, on September 21.
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But O'Rourke will need a comeback in conservative Texas, which has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate with U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in San Antonio.
In the clip - which was funded by the "Fire Cruz" PAC - a man sitting at a diner says, "Everybody I know in Texas likes Whataburger". Trump won there over Hillary Clinton by 11 points in 2016.
He ends with a quip about Cruz's Canadian origins and a final, "C'mon, Ted". However, the 46-year-old has clarified that although he would vote for impeaching Trump, he hasn't been in favor of actually initiating impeachment proceedings.
Cruz claimed that O'Rourke is the only Senate Democratic candidate this cycle who has explicitly supported Trump's impeachment. O'Rourke's response: "It's really interesting to hear you talk about a partisan circus, after your last six years in the US Senate". He accused his opponent of being "all talk and no action". "Listen if you have this special relationship with President Trump, then where is the result of that? You are all talk and no action".
O'Rourke criticized Cruz for his unwillingness to stand up to Trump on a range of issues, and said he had failed to stop Trump from pushing tariffs that would hurt Texas farmers and businesses.