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Home | Tag Archives: ted cruz

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Ted Cruz Endorses John Cornyn for Re-election

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz formally endorsed U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Friday morning, as the state’s senior senator gears up for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The pair appeared together in a video announcement, with Cruz thanking Texans for re-electing him in November.

“Today, I’m here to encourage you to do the same for my friend, Sen. John Cornyn, who worked very hard to support my re-election,” Cruz said, adding that he and Cornyn make “a very strong team here in Washington.”

The move will likely do much to shore up support for Cornyn, should any Republican primary rivals emerge.

“I’m proud to have Ted’s support, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Cornyn said. “Ted and I fight shoulder to shoulder to make the country more like Texas. That’s why it was critical he came out on top after Democrats put a target on his back and why I campaigned for him across our state.”

Cornyn is seeking his fourth term in the Senate.

Cornyn and Cruz have not always endorsed each other. Cruz declined to back Cornynin 2014 when he faced a primary challenge from then-U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman. Cruz said then that he was not getting involved in primaries involving his fellow senators.

Two years later, Cornyn similarly took a pass on endorsing Cruz for another term. At the time, Cruz was facing the possibility of a serious primary opponent amid the fallout from his decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

In September 2017, though, Cornyn reversed himself and gave his support to Cruz. During a joint interview at the Texas Tribune Festival, Cornyn said it was important for the state’s senators to present a unified front in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which had just hit the Texas coast.

Cornyn pitched in as Cruz confronted an increasingly serious challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso. Cornyn hosted an October fundraiser for Cruz in Washington, D.C., and joined Cruz for a number of stops on a statewide bus tour in the race’s closing days.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors:  ABBY LIVINGSTON AND PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Defeats Beto O’Rourke in Re-Election Fight

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke Tuesday evening in what appeared likely to be one of the closest U.S Senate races in Texas in decades.

With more than 60 percent of precincts reporting in Texas, Cruz had a four-point lead over O’Rourke.

While Cruz had a strong showing across most of rural Texas, O’Rourke narrowed the margin by winning urban counties and coming within striking distance in some Texas suburbs.

Graphic courtesy Texas Tribune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delivering his victory speech at about 10 p.m., Cruz cast the race in dramatic terms, saying it was not about either candidate but a “battle of ideas” and a “contest for who we are and what we believe in.”

“This was an election about hope and about the future of Texas,” Cruz said, “and the people of Texas rendered a verdict that we want a future with more jobs and more security and more freedom.”

Cruz thanked O’Rourke, saying he “poured his heart” into the campaign and “worked tirelessly,” making sacrifices as a father. Acknowledging that “millions across this state were inspired by his campaign,” Cruz appealed to O’Rourke’s supporters, saying he wanted to represent them too.

Cruz did not hold back about the challenge he said he faced, though.

“We saw an assault that was unprecedented,” Cruz said. “We saw a $100 million race with Hollywood coming in against the state, with the national media coming in against the state. But all the money in the world was no match for the good people of Texas and the hard work.”

Cruz’s speech followed a three-hour roller-coaster for those watching results trickle in, as Cruz and O’Rourke repeatedly traded narrow leads.

At about 9:25 p.m., Cruz’s supporters at his Election Night party in a Houston hotel broke out in cheers and a chant of “Cruuuz!” as Fox News called the race for him. “We want Ted!” supporters shouted as they moved closer to the stage, hoping to hear from the victor.

It was a dramatic shift from shortly before 9 p.m., when Cruz’s chief strategist, Jeff Roe, took the stage to address concerned supporters looking at returns that showed O’Rourke in reach of a historic upset. Roe told them “everything’s good” and said the campaign expected Cruz’s lead to grow once the results in more rural counties came in.

“Anybody that’s really clenched — you can release a little bit — it’s OK,” Roe said, suggesting he nonetheless expected to be “in for a little bit of a night.”

The mood at the O’Rourke election night party in El Paso was upbeat well into the evening. But the mood quickly soured once it became clear that most news outlets had called the race in favor of Cruz.

“I’m very surprised. I’m very disappointed,” said 80-year-old Olivia Lara, an O’Rourke supporter who said she votes in every election. “He worked so hard. It’s very sad for El Paso.”

Cruz supporters acknowledged being spooked as the first early vote results came in, giving O’Rourke a lead.

“At first I was a little worried, but we knew that after the big cities were done, that the rural counties would pull us in,” said Mike Diaz, a 39-year-old engineer from Cypress.

As for the closer-than-usual margin of victory for a statewide Texas Republican, Diaz and other Cruz backers chalked it up to financial firepower that O’Rourke brought to the race.

“It was a good, hard-fought battle, but they dumped so much money and so much advertising — they made it close,” Diaz said.

The race between Cruz and O’Rourke emerged in recent months as the hottest in the country during this midterm election season, as O’Rourke, a relatively unknown congressman just two years ago, cobbled together the most competitive statewide campaign by a Texas Democrat in over a decade. As Election Day drew closer and polls suggested a tightening race, Democratic hopes abounded that O’Rourke was cracking the code: energizing long-beleaguered Texas Democrats, expanding the electorate and putting himself in position to be the first of them to win statewide office in over two decades.

After making little secret of his intentions for months, O’Rourke entered the race on the last day of March 2017, announcing his campaign alongside his wife in El Paso. He laid down some early markers, promising to run a positive campaign, not accept PAC money and eschew pollsters and consultants.

For a period, the prospect of a competitive primary loomed as U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio considered a run as well. But about a month after O’Rourke launched his bid, Castro passed on a run, giving O’Rourke a relatively clear shot at the nomination.

O’Rourke immediately got to work on an ambitious goal: visiting all 254 counties of Texas. That push defined much of the first half of his campaign as he racked up thousands of miles holding town halls throughout the state, building the case that he would be the senator who would show up for all of Texas.

Heading into the March 6 primary, there was little concern O’Rourke would dominate in his first statewide test. But he received an underwhelming 62 percent of the vote, with most of the rest going to two unknown candidates. He also lost a number of heavily Hispanic counties in South Texas, auguring concerns about his ability to turn out the demographic long believed to be key to a Democratic revival in the state.

The night of the primary was notable for another reason: Cruz abruptly went on the offensive against O’Rourke after months of largely ignoring him. In a conference call shortly before polls closed, Cruz unloaded on O’Rourke as too liberal for Texas, and in an ad released later that night, mocked him for using the nickname “Beto” when his legal name is Robert Francis. (“Beto” is a Spanish nickname that the congressman has gone by since his youth.)

The following month, Cruz formally launched his re-election bid with a focus on extolling Lone Star State exceptionalism — especially in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It was an ostensibly unifying message that complemented Cruz’s new campaign slogan — “Tough as Texas” — and punctuated a period of home-state re-engagement following his unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign.

O’Rourke pressed forward with his 254-county tour. He completed it on June 9 in Gainesville, the seat of Cooke County, and did not let up afterward, continuing to keep an aggressive travel schedule that attracted growing national spotlight. It only grew brighter by mid-August, when O’Rourke’s remarks at a town hall defending NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem went viral.

By late summer, the mood of the race started to change. Things were tightening, according to surveys, and national Republicans began to develop some concern that it was getting too close for comfort.

The alarm was not helped by O’Rourke’s massive fundraising, which poured in online. He was outraising Cruz period after period, and he posted an astonishing $38 million in the third quarter of 2018 — a new record for the biggest fundraising quarter ever in a U.S. Senate race.

The GOP calvary began to mobilize. The Club for Growth, a conservative group that was critical to Cruz’s 2012 election, announced it would spend seven figures to help fend off O’Rourke, and a parade of high-profile surrogates began to form.

None, of course, was more high-profile than President Donald Trump, who Cruz bitterly battled in the fight for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. At the end of August, the president took to Twitter to announce he would headline a rally for Cruz in October — and he wanted to do it in the “biggest stadium” he could find in Texas. The two ended up reuniting on the first day of early voting — Oct. 22 — at the Toyota Center in Houston, where the president made clear they had buried the hatchet from 2016 and happily attacked O’Rourke as a “stone-cold phony.”

The fall also saw two debates between Cruz and O’Rourke, the product of grueling, months-long negotiations between the two sides. Meeting first in Dallas, O’Rourke displayed a more aggressive approach to Cruz, but it still left some supporters unsatisfied, especially as O’Rourke was getting buried by attack ads on TV while running exclusively positive spots. So in the second debate, held in San Antonio, O’Rourke swung harder at Cruz — to the point of adopting Trump’s old nickname for the senator: “Lyin’ Ted.”

Strategically, it was a pivotal moment for O’Rourke, and it was followed the next morning by the launch of three TV ads criticizing Cruz, a test of O’Rourke’s longtime vow to take the high road. Around the time, Cruz was riding high off the GOP enthusiasm generated by anger over Brett Kavanuagh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he gleefully portrayed O’Rourke’s new tack as the hallmark of a flailing candidate.

But Cruz’s high was not forever. Polls suggested his lead began to narrow again during early voting, which itself was a key moment. Turnout was comparable to that of a presidential election year, with nearly 5 million Texans voting early in the 30 Texas counties where most registered voters in the state live.

Earlier at O’Rourke’s election night party, some were already preparing for Cruz’s eventual victory, predicting that O’Rourke’s bid will likely be viewed as having paved the way for a future Democrat to win statewide.

“Even if he doesn’t get over the finish line, he’s laid a foundation we can build upon,” said Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor.

At one point later in the evening, a cover band played “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Julian Aguilar contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors:  ABBY LIVINGSTON AND PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke Entered Congress at Same Time; Here’s What They Have Accomplished

Since launching his bid for U.S. Senate last year, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has painted Republican incumbent Ted Cruz as a senator whose national ambitions have distracted him from his Texas duties. Cruz has questioned what accomplishments the congressman from El Paso has to his name.

How exactly do the two men’s records stack up? Their legislative achievements are easy to compare, given that both men entered Congress on the same day — Jan. 3, 2013.

They both joined chambers out of their party’s control. Two years later, the Republicans regained control of the Senate, while the Democrats maintained their minority status in the House — as would be the case for all of O’Rourke’s three terms.

Since the pair entered Congress, Cruz has introduced 105 bills, compared to the 65 bills O’Rourke has introduced over the same period, according to Congress.gov. The vast majority of those bills died in various stages of the legislative process, which is often the case with most legislation.

Cruz has passed five Senate bills into law, including bills authored and incorporated into larger legislation, according to GovTrack, an organization that tracks member voting and legislative data. Not included in the GovTrack count is a Cruz bill that requires hot air balloon pilots to undergo medical exams. That measure passed as part of a FAA reauthorization bill the Senate sent to President Donald Trump last month. Govtrack shows O’Rourke has passed three bills into law.

Obama years vs. Trump years

For their first four years in Congress, Obama was in the White House. According to GovTrack, O’Rourke passed two bills into law while the president of his same party held the Oval Office. His first bill continued tuition assistance programs for service members. That measure was included as part of a larger appropriations bill in 2013.

O’Rourke’s other bill under Obama named a federal courthouse in El Paso.

Cruz also authored a courthouse renaming bill that passed under House legislation, one of three pieces of legislation he passed under Obama. GovTrack credits congressional members with passage if they’ve sponsored companion bills that passed into law. Another successful measure prohibited the U.S. from giving visas to U.N diplomats that previously engaged in terrorist or espionage activities against the United States. The bill came in response to Iran naming a U.N ambassador that was tied to the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

When the Republicans took the Senate back in 2015, Cruz became chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space. In that position, he shepherded the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act through Congress. The bill, intended to encourage the development of the commercial space sector, originally passed as House legislation, but Cruz authored the companion bill in the Senate.

With Trump in the White House, O’Rourke managed to get his Express Appeals Act signed into law as part of a larger measure. The legislation directed the veteran affairs secretary to start a pilot program that provided veterans with an alternative and faster route to appeal for disability compensation.

Meanwhile, Cruz has had three bills enacted under Trump. The first was a bill reauthorizing NASA that passed the Senate unanimously. The second was a measure to give tax breaks to victims of three hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — a measure that was incorporated into a larger House relief package that the president signed. Most recently, Cruz had his hot air balloon safety bill included in larger legislation.

But legislative records are not the sole measure of productivity. Because it is difficult to get legislation enacted on their own, members routinely push for certain provisions to be included in larger bills, particularly through amendment processes both on the floor and in committee mark-ups. They also spend time fighting measures they oppose.

“(With) the way that Congress operates these days, much of it’s gonna be pieces of legislation rather than whole bills because now, the past two years in particular, Congress has done very little,” said Rich Cohen, co-author of The Almanac of American Politics from 2001 through 2010. “When Congress does act, the legislation often is comprehensive … They’re big bills and there’s a lot going on in them so it shouldn’t be surprising that someone would take credit for a part of a bill rather than a whole bill.”

Committee work is also a measure of productivity. Both Cruz and O’Rourke sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services Committee. Cohen said neither committee churns out much legislation, but rather spends much of its time working on a massive yearly Pentagon spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Provisions members get included in those bills don’t necessarily show up on their legislative record. A list on the Cruz campaign’s website details 34 legislative accomplishments includes 23 provisions he got included into different NDAAs over his six years. And in several posts on O’Rourke’s Medium blog, he has mentioned multiple items he pushed for inclusion. But it’s not simple to verify either lawmaker’s efforts in larger bills.

“It’s awfully difficult … to prove it or challenge it one way or another,” Cohen said. “It’s the opposite of transparent. It’s difficult to figure out what happened when you have this 1,000 page bill with lots of moving pieces.”

Top three accomplishments

The Texas Tribune asked both Cruz and O’Rourke to provide the three legislative accomplishments of which they are most proud.

The O’Rourke campaign passed along three measures that the El Paso Democrat saw signed into law by Trump.

  • Expanding Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care

O’Rourke was the primary sponsor of the “Honor Our Commitment Act,” which expanded mental health care through the VA to veterans with “other-than-honorable” discharges from the military. The measure was included an omnibus spending bill in March. In a blog post a year earlier, O’Rourke said the legislation was needed because “(20) veterans a day are committing suicide, and 14 of those we know are not receiving healthcare from the VA.”

  • Requiring Mental Health Screenings for Separating Service Members

Tucked deep within the NDAA for the last fiscal year is an O’Rourke measure mandating that service members leaving the military receive a mental health examination, in addition to the already required exit physical exam.

“Ensuring that our service members receive comprehensive mental healthcare evaluations prior to returning to civilian life is critically important because doing so increases the chances we get veterans the treatment they need,” O’Rourke said in a blog post when the bill was added to the NDAA.

  • Permanently Protecting Castner Range

In last year’s annual defense spending bill, O’Rourke got a provision included to permanently protect the Castner Range, nearly 7,000 acres of land surrounded by the Franklin Mountains around El Paso. The provision was signed into law by Trump as part of a larger defense spending package. The bill prevents any commercial development in a space that O’Rourke said environmental activists have been fighting to preserve since 1971.

“This is an incredible opportunity to ensure that we pass on Castner Range, and all that it means to us as a country, to not just this generation but the generations that follow,” O’Rourke said in a floor speech at the time. He also has a pending bill to designate the range as a national monument.

In response to the request for three top legislative accomplishments, the Cruz campaign sent nine. Here’s a sample:

  • Hurricane tax relief

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Cruz pushed for tax break legislation for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The Cruz-led legislation ultimately was included in the final, larger relief bill that passed through both chambers and was signed into law by the president.

Cruz has used this legislation to attack O’Rourke’s voting record because O’Rourke voted against passage of the bill. O’Rourke has defended his vote by saying that the final bill didn’t have tax breaks as generous as those given to victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

  • Purple Hearts for Fort Hood victims

In late 2014, Obama signed an NDAA that included a Cruz provision allowing victims of the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood to be eligible for Purple Hearts. Thirteen people died in the attack.

“This designation is long overdue for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting and their families who deserve our prayers and support in dealing with this horrific act of terrorism,” said Cruz when the amendment was announced.

  • U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

Cruz was the primary sponsor of this 2015 bill in the Senate, which was a companion to the House bill that ultimately passed. This bill prevented the federal government from introducing further regulation on the commercial space industry for seven and a half years. The bill also reauthorized use of the International Space Station through 2024.

“This legislation makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration,” Cruz said in a statement at 2015.

Cruz is the chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness and is from Houston, home to NASA.

The filibuster and the sit-in

Both Cruz and O’Rourke have had moments in Congress that elevated their profiles nationally.

For Cruz, it came just months into his first term, in which his outspoken opposition to the Affordable Care Act placed him at the center of a contentious government shutdown that lasted over two weeks and left many Republicans upset with him. Amid the efforts by congressional leaders to avoid a shutdown in September 2013, Cruz seized on an opportunity to speak on the Senate floor for 21 hours to highlight his opposition to the sweeping health care law.

But when he wasn’t railing against Obamacare, Cruz strayed off topic to keep the clock running on what is now the fourth-longest speech in U.S. Senate history. Most notoriously, the freshman senator read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” from the floor.

On the south side of Capitol Hill, O’Rourke presided over his own marathon political gamesmanship three years later. Shortly after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest the Republicans’ decision not to bring gun control legislation to a vote. When the Democrats staged their sit-in however, House Republicans adjourned, resulting in C-SPAN turning off its live cameras and leaving interested Americans without an option to watch the remainder of the sit-in.

But O’Rourke quickly found a way around the situation by using his phone to broadcast the sit-in live over Facebook with a fellow congressman, according to the El Paso Times. O’Rourke’s broadcasts were picked up by C-SPAN and CNN while the Democrats held the House floor for over 24 hours. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberglater said that the Facebook Live streams related to the sit-in reached 3 million people.

Author:  ANDREW EVERSDEN – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke by 5 Among Likely Voters in U.S. Senate Race, New Poll Finds

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz leads U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, by 5 percentage points among likely voters in a new Ipsos online poll released Wednesday in conjunction with Reuters and the University of Virginia.

A September Ipsos poll showed O’Rourke ahead of Cruz by 2 percentage points among likely voters.

According to the newly released poll, 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for Cruz, while 44 percent said they would vote for O’Rourke; 3 percent said they would vote for someone other than O’Rourke or Cruz, and 1 percent said they wouldn’t vote.

The online poll of about 2,000 Texans over the age of 18 was conducted October 12-18. Ipsos online polls do not have margins of error; instead, the poll’s precision is measured using a “credibility interval.” This poll’s credibility interval was +/-3.1 percentage points among likely voters.

Other recent polls have also shown Cruz in the lead. A Quinnipiac University phone poll of 730 likely voters from earlier this month put Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by 9 percentage points.

Respondents cared most about immigration and health care in the Wednesday Ipsos poll. They saw Cruz as a better candidate to address issues relating to unemployment and jobs, health care, immigration and the Supreme Court, while they favored O’Rourke for environmental issues and social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

The poll also asked respondents whether they saw Cruz and O’Rourke as “traditional” politicians: 78 percent said they perceived Cruz as traditional. That number is up from 76 percent recorded in the September Ipsos poll. Only 32 percent saw O’Rourke as traditional, which did not change from September.

In the Texas gubernatorial race, the poll found that Gov. Greg Abbott leads his Democratic challenger, Lupe Valdez, by 15 percentage points — up from 9 percentage points in the September poll.

Author: MATT ZDUN – The Texas Tribune

UPDATE: Donald Trump’s Houston Rally with Ted Cruz Moved to Bigger Venue

President Donald Trump’s rally Monday in Houston with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been moved to a bigger venue.

Originally set to take place at the NRG Arena, the event will now be held at the Toyota Center, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced in a tweet Thursday afternoon, describing the demand for tickets as “HUGE and unprecedented.” The Toyota Center can hold about twice as many people as NRG Arena — roughly 10,000 versus 19,000.

Trump set expectations high set two months ago, when he announced he would come to Texas in October to hold a rally with Cruz at the “biggest stadium we can find.” Neither NRG Arena nor the Toyota Center are among the state’s largest venues.

The rally is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., and is set to also feature remarks from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Governor Greg Abbott to Speak at Donald Trump’s Campaign Event with Ted Cruz

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that he will be speaking at President Donald Trump’s campaign event with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on Monday.

Trump’s campaign announced Monday evening that the rally would take place at the NRG Arena on the first day of early voting for the November 6 election.

The competitive U.S. Senate race pits Cruz against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

The rally is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

The governor announced his attendance while speaking at an event to accept the Governor’s Trophy following the University of Texas Longhorns’ recent win over the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Showdown Game.

Author: MATT ZDUN – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke in New Poll by Nine Points

WASHINGTON — A new poll released Thursday morning showed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has stabilized his lead over his Democrat challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

Fifty-four percent of Texans backed Cruz, while 45 percent backed O’Rourke in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

As for each candidate’s images, 52 percent of Texans surveyed had a favorable view of Cruz, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably. O’Rourke, however, was slightly under water in how Texans viewed him: 45 percent of respondents had a favorable view of O’Rourke, compared to 47 percent who view him unfavorably.

A September poll from the same outfit showed the same margin: a nine-point Cruz lead. While at times Quinnipiac had this race within the margin of error over the last year, the Cruz lead has stabilized in this and other polls to the high single digits.

This most recent poll was conducted Oct. 3-9.

The poll also took a snapshot of Texas’ gubernatorial race, showing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with a prohibitive lead over his Democratic rival, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, 58 percent to 38 percent.

Strikingly, while Valdez and O’Rourke have consolidated support among African Americans, Abbott and Cruz garnered sizable Hispanic support. Cruz had the backing of 37 percent of Hispanic respondents while nearly half of Hispanics surveyed — 46 percent — supported Abbott.

Sixty-two percent of Texans viewed Abbott favorably while 32 percent of Texans had an unfavorable view of the governor. In contrast, Valdez — an underfunded candidate — is still largely unknown for this point in the cycle. Thirty-one percent of Texans had a positive view of Valdez and 29 percent had an unfavorable view of her.

The poll surveyed 730 likely voters, 730 using cell phone and landlines. The margin of error was 4.4 percent.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke Clash Over Immigration, Trump, Guns During Intense Debate

DALLAS — U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, took a newly aggressive tack against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in their first debate Friday evening.

Appearing at Southern Methodist University, the candidates exchanged rhetorical blows on just about every single question, showing off sharp differences that have long been evident in the race. But what stood out was O’Rourke’s combative posture toward Cruz after spending his campaign until this point largely ignoring the incumbent.

Throughout the debate, O’Rourke repeatedly reminded viewers that he was the only candidate on the stage who has visited all 254 counties in Texas — and forcefully pushed back several times as he came under fire from Cruz.

“This is why people don’t like Washington, D.C. — you just said something that I did not say and attributed it to me,” O’Rourke told Cruz at one point. “This is your trick and the trade, to confuse and incite based on fear and not to speak the truth.”

That exchange was sparked by Cruz’s contention that O’Rourke was stoking racial hatred against police following the shooting death of black Dallas resident Botham Jean in his own apartment by white Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger. Guyger, who was off duty at the time of the shooting, has been charged with manslaughter after she allegedly mistook Jean’s apartment for her own unit in the same building. O’Rourke has voiced support for firing the officer, while Cruz has cautioned against a rush to judgment.

The debate was feisty from the opening question, which was about whether “Dreamers” — young people who were brought to the country illegally as children — should be given a path to citizenship. Holding firm on his support for that idea, O’Rourke charged Cruz with promising to “deport each and every single Dreamer — that cannot be the way that Texas leads on this issue.” Without denying it, Cruz shot back that O’Rourke is focused on “fighting for illegal immigrants” and that “Americans are Dreamers.”

Even on the ostensibly positive last question — What do you admire about your opponent? — Cruz appeared to fit in a jab, or at least a back-handed compliment. Going first, O’Rourke said that as a fellow member of Congress, he respected the sacrifice Cruz was making with his family to do what he believed was best for the country.

When it was his turn, Cruz also commended O’Rourke for making family sacrifices to serve in Congress and 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.

“True to form,” O’Rourke replied.

The topic of the debate was domestic policy. It was moderated by NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers.

In more current events, the candidates were asked about Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee whose confirmation is in question as he faces a sexual misconduct allegation from his high school days. Cruz said the accuser deserves to be heard and treated with respect, while O’Rourke went further, saying there needs to be an FBI investigation into the allegation.

The exchange quickly turned into a broader tiff over judicial nominees, with Cruz seeking to tie O’Rourke to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and claiming they both want judges who would effectively overturn the Second Amendment.

O’Rourke denied that and offered another confrontational retort as Cruz challenged him to name a judge he has supported who would defend the Second Amendment.

“You may not understand how the Senate works, but it’s your job in the Senate to decide if you’re going to support or not support” nominees, O’Rourke said — to which Cruz pressed him on whether he endorsed Clinton in 2016 (he did) and O’Rourke insisted the question was irrelevant.

The Second Amendment fueled yet another showdown between the two as they differed on the need for gun control after the deadly shooting earlier this year at Santa High School. Cruz said survivors told him they do not want gun control and instead want more armed police officers in schools. O’Rourke panned that idea, saying teachers have told they do not believe it will make them safer.

“Thoughts and prayers, Sen. Cruz, are just not gonna cut it anymore,” O’Rourke said. “The people of Texas — the children of Texas — deserve action.”

With the moderators seeking to move on, Cruz interjected to assert that “more armed police officers in our school is not thoughts and prayers.”

“I’m sorry that you don’t like thoughts and prayers,” Cruz said. “I will pray for anyone in harm’s way, but I will also do something about it.”

In more personal matters, O’Rourke was asked about his 1998 drunk-driving arrest — and whether he sought to leave the scene, a fresher detail that recently emerged about the incident that he has otherwise openly discussed. Citing state and local police reports, the Houston Chronicle reported last month that a witness said he tried to flee.

O’Rourke denied that.

“I did not try to leave the scene of the accident, though driving drunk, which I did, is a terrible mistake for which there is no excuse,” he said.

Cruz said he did not “intend to get into Congressman O’Rourke’s personal history, but I will keep the focus on issues” — and then pointed out O’Rourke introduced legislation that would have effectively ended the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for those convicted of drug offenses. Cruz called the legislation part of a pattern of O’Rourke flirting with loosening laws on illicit drugs beyond just marijuana.

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.

O’Rourke reiterated at the debate that he believes “there’s nothing more American than” such nonviolent protests, which the players say they are doing to draw attention to racial inequality.

Cruz shot back at O’Rourke that “nowhere in his answer did he address” that, in Cruz’s view, kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to veterans. Players have a right to protest, Cruz added, when they can do it in a way that does not “disrespect the flag.”

More fireworks flared up as Cruz and O’Rourke tackled the topic of their respective relationships with President Donald Trump.

O’Rourke insisted he would work with anyone who has the best interests of Texas in mind, including Trump. Cruz pounced in his response, bringing up O’Rourke’s support for impeaching Trump.

“As far as I know, Congressman O’Rourke has never spoken to the president other than to publicly call for his impeachment,” Cruz said. “When you are leading the extreme left wing wanting to impeach … the president, that does not set you up for policy wins for Texas.”

Cruz was asked whether he lost his dignity by supporting Trump after losing to him in a bruising 2016 Republican primary that saw Trump deriding the senator’s wife and father. Cruz said that in an election “unlike any other,” he made a conscious decision to put any personal hurt feelings aside for the good of Texans.

“I’ve got a responsibility, which is to fight for everybody here and every person in this state,” he said.

Cruz also touted this year’s income tax overhaul and job growth.

O’Rourke, though, faulted Cruz for not opposing Trump more and said the president undermines American democratic institutions.

“We need a junior senator who will stand up to this president,” O’Rourke said.

When asked how they represent Texas values, both men took the opportunity to smear their opponent based on campaign contributions. Cruz painted O’Rourke as a far-left ideologue beholden to “liberal interests.” O’Rourke portrayed Cruz as someone who is “captured” by corporations and special interests.

The two did find common ground in one area: When asked about how best to cover the health care needs of Texans, both men said Americans should not be rejected for health care coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The Friday event was the first of three hour-long debates, and it comes as polls continue to show a tight race between Cruz and O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman. On Friday morning, the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the race from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.”

The next two debates are scheduled for Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Early voting begins Oct. 22.

It was only a week ago that O’Rourke and Cruz had announced an agreement to hold three debates, capping weeks of negotiations between their campaigns.

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. That is when Cruz proposed five topical debates over three months in five cities.

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. That will remain true for the Dallas debate, while the other two debates they ultimately agreed to are set for different days.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK AND BRANDON FORMBY –  The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke Debate Tonight at 5 p.m. Watch Here

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke are set to square off on the debate stage for the first time Friday evening in Dallas.

The 6 p.m. (5 p.m. Mountain) event at Southern Methodist University is the first of three hourlong debates, and it comes as polls continue to show a tight race between Cruz and O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman. On Friday morning, the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the race from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.”

The Dallas debate is being presented by SMU, NBC 5/KXAS and The Dallas Morning News. It will be broadcast live on NBC 5/KXAS, its website and the Dallas Morning News’ website as well. The Texas Tribune will feature the livestream of the debate on this page.

The topic of the debate is domestic policy, and it will be moderated by NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers. Both candidates will stand at podiums before a 240-person audience.

The next two debates are scheduled for Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Early voting begins Oct. 22.

It was only a week ago that O’Rourke and Cruz had announced an agreement to hold three debates, capping weeks of negotiations between their campaigns.

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. That is when Cruz proposed five topical debates over three months in five cities.

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. That will remain true for the Dallas debate, while the other two debates they ultimately agreed to are set for different days.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Cruz, O’Rourke Agree to 3 Debates

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, have agreed to three debates before Election Day.

Announced Friday by both campaigns, the schedule calls for debates Sept. 21 in Dallas, Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Each event will be an hour long and vary in topic and format:

  • Dallas: Domestic policy, moderated
  • Houston: Domestic policy, “town hall style”
  • San Antonio: Half domestic policy, half foreign policy; moderated

The Dallas debate will be at Southern Methodist University, the Houston debate will be at the University of Houston and the San Antonio debate will be at a studio there.

The announcement caps a debate over debates that began in May when O’Rourke proposed six debates with Cruz, two in Spanish. Cruz, who is not fluent in the language, quickly shot down that idea and maintained he was open to debating O’Rourke but wanted to wait until closer to Election Day to talk debate details and lock in a schedule.

In July, Cruz formally responded to O’Rourke’s debate challenge, proposing five topical debates over three months in five cities. O’Rourke took issue with several aspects of Cruz’s counter-offer, including the fact all the debates would be on Friday evenings during high school football season. O’Rourke also asked Cruz if they could add a sixth debate in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, and Cruz offered to swap out one of the five cities in his plan for El Paso.

While the schedule announced Friday does not feature a debate in El Paso, it does include days that are not Friday. The Dallas debate falls on a Friday, but the ones in Houston and San Antonio are on a Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.

For weeks, the two campaigns had appeared to be at a stalemate. Seeking to force O’Rourke’s hand, Cruz accepted an invitation from two Dallas media outlets to debate O’Rourke on Aug. 31 in that city — which had been part of Cruz’s proposed schedule — but O’Rourke declined to follow suit, citing continued problems with the debate negotiations. More recently, Cruz expressed doubt that debates would even happen with the two sides at loggerheads and the clock ticking until Election Day.

Early voting begins Oct. 22.

 

**Update

KCOS-TV, Channel 13. will carry the first debate Friday, September 21st @ 5pm.

 

 

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Report: Trump official says U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz Could Lose to U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke

President Donald Trump’s budget chief said Saturday that Republican U.S. Sen Ted Cruz could lose his seat in the November elections, suggesting that he is not likable enough, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times report, Mick Mulvaney, the leader of the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said at a closed-door meeting with Republican donors in New York City that he did not believe in the existence of a “blue wave” of Democrats overtaking many Republican-held seats but that Cruz may be in trouble.

“There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, O.K.?” Mulvaney said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the Times. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a possibility. How likable is a candidate? That still counts.”

Cruz, who’s held the Senate seat since 2013, is facing U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, in the November election. O’Rourke has outraised Cruz so far, and recent polls have put the two almost neck and neck.

To further his point on a candidate’s likability, Mulvaney mentioned last year’s special election for Senate in Alabama, when Republican Roy Moore, a former judge accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to his Democratic opponent.

The story on Mulvaney’s comments was published while Cruz was holding a campaign event in Humble. Speaking with reporters afterward, he said he had not seen the articles yet and thus did not have an immediate comment.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Author: JOLIE MCCULLOUGH – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Allies Take Aim at O’Rourke Over Eminent Domain, Father-in-Law

Allies of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are targeting his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in a new TV ad over his support on the El Paso City Council for a plan to redevelop downtown El Paso that raised the threat of eminent domain.

The plan never went that far but fueled a contentious chapter in El Paso politics starting over a decade ago. The new TV ad from the Club for Growth — a national conservative group that recently announced a seven-figure offensive in the race — portrays O’Rourke as a puppet of wealthy developers who pushed the project, including his father-in-law, Bill Sanders.

“El Paso’s rich and powerful stay that way by controlling politicians like Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. “As a councilman, Beto carried water for his wealthy father-in-law, the developer behind a downtown redevelopment scheme, pushing the city to bulldoze an historic Hispanic neighborhood using eminent domain.”

The ad goes on to refer to eminent domain as a “government wrecking ball” and ends by tagging O’Rourke as “Beto the Bully.”

The O’Rourke campaign did not have an immediate comment on the ad.

Titled “Bulldozer,” the spot starts airing Tuesday in San Antonio, and the Club for Growth plans to also run it in Dallas and Houston in the coming weeks. The group’s super PAC arm, Club for Growth Action, is spending $200,000 on the ad for now.The commercial is part of an at least $1 million investment in the race that the organization announced last month, seeing a tightening race between O’Rourke and Cruz, on whom it spent lavishly in 2012.

The Club for Growth commercial involves an episode that has come up in O’Rourke’s previous races for City Council and Congress but not in the Senate contest until recently. The downtown revitalization plan was introduced in March 2006 by the Paso Del Norte Group —a private organization made up of regional business elite including Sanders — and would have impacted the historic Mexican-American neighborhood of Segundo Barrio.

While eminent domain was never used in conjunction with the project, the specter of it was controversial from the start. O’Rourke was among those on the council who at least initially wanted to preserve the option of eminent domain as a last resort and, for example, helped defeat a June 2006 motion to rule it out. A month later, as public concerns were growing about the plan, the council — including O’Rourke — voted to ban the use of eminent domain during the first year of the project.

Sanders initially said in April 2006 that he would not invest in the project to avoid creating an ethical dilemma for his son-in-law, according to El Paso Times articles from the time. Later in the year, however, he decided to invest in the plan after all, citing encouragement he received from then-Mayor John Cook, and promised any dividends would go to a downtown nonprofit.

O’Rourke appeared to cite that promise in denying there was any conflict of interest. Sanders “cannot profit from this plan, nor can I, nor can any member of my family,” O’Rourke wrote in an email to the Texas Observer for a 2007 story on the project titled, “Eminent Disaster.”

Still, opponents of the plan hounded O’Rourke as the council grappled with the issue in 2006. There was the threat of a recall petition — the signatures were never turned in — and two ethics complaints filed against O’Rourke, both of which were ultimately dismissed, the El Paso Times reported.

O’Rourke went on to easily win re-election the council in 2007, defeating a challenger who had made the project an issue. It came up again in his successful 2012 bid to defeat then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, whose campaign raised the potential destruction of Segundo Barrio homes in an attack ad against O’Rourke.

By the end of the decade, the plan — at least as initially conceived — had lost steam. The issue was further complicated in 2009 when Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment tightening eminent domain rules in the state.

In O’Rourke’s race against Cruz, the line of attack involving eminent domain is relatively new. Before Tuesday’s ad, it was only included on a long list of O’Rourke hits featured on a website launched last week by Texans Are, the other pro-Cruz super PAC.

On the campaign trail, O’Rourke often talks about eminent domain in the context of his opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year, O’Rourke introduced a bill to ban eminent domain for the purpose of the wall.

Cruz supports the wall, though he does not talk much about the use of eminent domain to construct it. Some other top Texas Republicans, such as Attorney General Ken Paxtonhave said they are OK with eminent domain for the wall.

Another super PAC, Texans Are, is also planning to spend into the seven figures on the race and its first TV ads are also set to hit the air Tuesday. One of them, seen on air in San Antonio, attacks O’Rourke over his record on border security and immigration.

“Lawless borders, reckless politician — that’s Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Says O’Rourke Voted Against Harvey Tax Breaks; O’Rourke Says There’s More to The Story

A new attack ad from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign knocks U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, for voting against tax relief for Hurricane Harvey victims last year.

While the vote did happen, the bill was part of broader negotiations that O’Rourke said at the time prompted his vote against it.

Here’s a deeper look at the bill at the center of Cruz’s attack and O’Rourke’s defense of his “no” vote.

Cruz’s attack

The 30-second spot called “Completely Ridiculous” is currently only available online. It opens with rescue footage and shots of Cruz meeting with storm victims, while highlighting Cruz’s support in the U.S. Senate for disaster relief funding and emergency tax relief for Harvey victims.

The ad then hits O’Rourke for voting against the tax relief measure.

“Congressman Beto O’Rourke? So irresponsible that he even voted against Hurricane Harvey tax relief,” the narrator says.

O’Rourke’s defense

Almost immediately after casting his vote against that bill last year, O’Rourke began defending his decision. The bill, which was later signed into law, allowed Harvey victims to receive tax deductions on personal losses from the storm and reduced penalties for withdrawing funds from retirement accounts to cover storm-related costs. But it was a sprawling piece of legislation that also included a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and other small health care programs.

In a post on Medium at the time, O’Rourke said he couldn’t support the bill because it didn’t include funding reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Centers (CHC), which were both set to expire within days of the vote.

“Without returning this legislation for further improvement, I am not confident Congress would have reauthorized these programs,” he wrote.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday after an event in Austin, O’Rourke noted that he had “voted for more than $90 billion in aid for Hurricane Harvey victims” while in Congress. But the bill Cruz is highlighting in his latest ad was not a good deal for those victims, O’Rourke said.

“As you know, that tax break was a fraction of what was afforded to those who were recovering from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast,” O’Rourke said. “That tax break was included in FAA reauthorization that failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program upon which hundreds of thousands of Texas children and families depend. And so we were there for those hit by Harvey, but we were also there for those kids who need to make sure they can receive that medication, see a therapist, get to a doctor – because it’ll literally make a life-or-death difference for them.”

Though O’Rourke claims Sandy victims received bigger tax breaks than those proposed for Harvey victims in this bill, Sandy victims did not get any such federal tax breaks, according to Politifact Texas and NBC News.

Cruz highlighted and mocked O’Rourke’s claim regarding Sandy victims Wednesday evening. On Thursday, O’Rourke’s campaign acknowledged he had misspoken in referencing Superstorm Sandy – both in his blog post at the time of the vote and this week speaking to reporters. A spokesman for the El Paso Democrat said O’Rourke meant to say that the tax breaks offered to Harvey victims were less generous than those offered to victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

More context

The relief package at issue came to the House floor just two months after Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed. At the time, federal health care programs were again in the spotlight as the end of the government’s fiscal year loomed and key health programs were up against a deadline to be reauthorized. Senate Republicans were also making a last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare while Democrats in the House and Senate were pushing for the renewal of CHIP and CHC funding, all just days before the end of the fiscal year.

“The recent debate on health care in our country has only reinforced the need for quality, affordable care,” O’Rourke wrote at the time. “That simply will not be possible without these two programs that so many children and families in El Paso rely on.”

After an initial House vote on the bill failed, it passed on a second try on a 264-155 vote. All Texas Republicans and most Texas Democrats voted in favor of the measure. Four Texas Democrats voted against it, including O’Rourke. U.S. Reps. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, didn’t vote.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Author: ANDREW EVERSDEN – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke’s NFL Comments Have Gone Viral. Here’s How it Can Impact his Texas Race

Since 2016, Texas Republicans have been spoiling for a fight over NFL players protesting during the national anthem, confident they have a winning issue on their hands — or at least one that will fire up their voters.

That fight has now arrived in the state’s 2018 U.S. Senate race.

A video of the Democratic nominee, Beto O’Rourke, recently voicing support for the protests has gone viral, earning hundreds of thousands of social media shares and garnering praise from Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes. The Republican incumbent, Ted Cruz, and his allies have seized on O’Rourke’s position to press their long-running argument that despite the national fanfare, O’Rourke is out of step with the Texans who will actually decide the election.

There has not been any recent public polling in Texas gauging support specifically for the protests, which participating players have said are meant to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. But multiple University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls have provided some indications about how Texans feel about the controversy.

  • In June, with the debate over the player protests still raging, a UT/TT survey discovered a plurality of voters — 47 percent — had an unfavorable opinion of the NFL, vs. 26 percent who felt favorably about the league.
  • In October 2017, as President Donald Trump was sharply criticizing players over the protests, a UT/TT poll found more Texas voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the situation than approved of it, 50 percent to 40 percent.
  • In October 2016, as the protests were beginning to gain attention, a UT/TT poll found that the Black Lives Matter movement, which is largely allied with the protesting players, had a poor image in Texas, with voters having an unfavorable view of it by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

In a blog post Wednesday, UT/TT pollster Jim Henson suggested the numbers show O’Rourke’s position is anything but a clear-cut political winner in Texas.

“While it’s too soon to judge O’Rourke’s national prospects — despite the natural eagerness to discover the Next Big Thing — the response on Political Twitter illustrates that in moments like his Houston comments (and many others on a growing list), O’Rourke looks a lot like a national Democratic candidate,” Henson wrote. “Relevant attitudes in Texas, however, suggest that he still has a rough schedule to get through before he graduates to the pros.”

The political fervor over the national players protests is nothing new for top Texas Republicans, who have seized on them to varying degrees since they began in 2016. Cruz has been especially vocal, bashing the protesting players last year as “rich, spoiled athletes disrespecting the flag.”

The saga in the Senate race began Aug. 10 at an O’Rourke town hall in Houston, where the candidate fielded a question from a man who said he came from a family of veterans and found it “incredibly frustrating that people seem to be OK with” the player protests. The man asked O’Rourke: Do you find it disrespectful?

“My short answer is no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” O’Rourke replied, offering a preface before giving his long answer: “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue — let’s begin there — and it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue.”

O’Rourke went on to offer a lengthy recollection of civil rights struggles in the United States, the sacrifices Americans have made for those rights and the more recent national conversation surrounding police shootings of unarmed black men.

“And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke concluded. “That is why they are doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

The next weekend at a campaign stop in Corpus Christi, Cruz brought up O’Rourke’s comments while responding to a question about respect for police.

“[O’Rourke] gave a long, long answer that ended with, he quote ‘couldn’t think of anything more American’ than kneeling to protest the national anthem,” Cruz said, recalling the patriotism he said he saw during a recent tour of Texas military bases. “The contrast of every person there having that respect — you know, when Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American, I’ve got to admit — I can. Those soldiers, those sailors, those airmen, those Marines, who fought and bled to protect the flag — yeah, that’s something more American.”

The issue appear to cool off for a few days — until Tuesday afternoon, when the website NowThisNews tweeted the video of O’Rourke’s comments, set to dramatic music and accompanied by a caption saying O’Rourke “brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful.” The tweet quickly racked up over 100,000 retweets and got the attention of people like talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who told O’Rourke she would like to meet him, and LeBron James, who called the video a “must watch” and praised O’Rourke for his “candid thoughtful words.”

With the video ricocheting around the internet, O’Rourke continued to tackle the issue Wednesday evening at a town hall in Texas City, where the first question he got was about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. O’Rourke gave an answer that echoed his initial one, not backing away from the assertion that there was a patriotic quality to the protests.

“To peacefully, without violence, call attention to problems that we have going on in this country, so that our conscience, our eyes, our focus, are directed on those who otherwise might not have a voice … I think that is something uniquely American,” O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans continued to show Thursday morning they are happy to have the debate over kneeling during the anthem, with Cruz firing off a tweet mocking actor Kevin Bacon’s embrace of the viral video. A short time later, state party Chairman James Dickey issuing a statement calling O’Rourke’s definition of American “utterly flawed” and his comments a “slap in the face” to veterans. The episode, Dickey added, “further demonstrates [O’Rourke’s] failure to comprehend the values held by the voters of Texas while he runs tenaciously farther and farther to the left every day.”

O’Rourke clearly sees some political upside to the episode as well. As of Thursday, his campaign was running Facebook ads highlighting his viral comments on the player protests. Meanwhile, an O’Rourke campaign stop Thursday afternoon in Houston featured a surprise guest: Arian Foster, the former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins running back who kneeled during the anthem in 2016.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK –  The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke by 4 points, According to NBC/Marist Poll

Just as the fall television ad wars are about to begin, a new NBC News/Marist pollof Texas registered voters shows a tight U.S. Senate race between U.S. Ted Cruzand U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

In a head-to-head match up, Cruz held a 4-point lead over O’Rourke. Forty-nine percent of respondents backed Cruz, compared to 45 percent who supported O’Rourke.

Six percent of respondents remain undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

Cruz has maintained a fairly strong favorability rating, with 49 percent of those surveyed viewing him favorably and 41 percent viewing him unfavorably.

O’Rourke is far more unknown. Forty-one percent of respondents viewed him favorably while 23 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view. Thirty-six percent were either unsure of their opinion of O’Rourke or hadn’t heard of him.

That there are so many remaining Texans who do not know who O’Rourke is suggests his television ad campaign strategy will be critical: He either has room to grow his support or room for Cruz’s campaign to negatively define him.

The poll also showed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with a daunting 19-point lead over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, similar to other public polling of the race.

Additionally, President Donald Trump is just above water in the state: 47 percent of registered voters approve of his job performance, against a 45 percent disapproval rating.

This was a live telephone poll conducted between Aug. 12 and 16. The poll was conducted prior to Tuesday, when Trump’s former longtime attorney and former campaign chairman were separately declared guilty of various crimes.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON –  The Texas Tribune

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