Stakes Are High As Ted Cruz And Beto O’Rourke Negotiate Debate Plans

Cruz, the incumbent, was a champion debater in college. Challenger O’Rourke is riding a wave of momentum.

By Rhonda FanningAugust 1, 2018 7:48 am

According to the Lyceum Poll on the Texas senate race, Senator Ted Cruz has just a 2-point lead over Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke. So debates between the candidates could play a major role, when voters go to the polls.

Last week, O’Rourke accepted the proposal from Cruz for five debates leading up to the November election. O’Rourke did ask that a sixth debate be added in his hometown of El Paso, and the Cruz camp has responded that while they’re open to the location suggestion, they didn’t want to add a debate to the agreed-upon five. As the two campaigns work to finalize the details, Jeremy Wallace of the Houston Chronicle has been writing about what’s at stake for each candidate going in.

Wallace says the candidates are still negotiating the details. O’Rourke wants at least some of the debates to be held on a day other than Friday – a tough night for politics during high school football season. And if O’Rourke gets his wish for an El Paso debate, each candidate will have a chance to appear in his hometown. Cruz is from Houston.

Wallace says the stakes are high for Cruz, and it’s rare for incumbents to agree to debate their challengers.

“Typically incumbents don’t want to do any debates with a challenger,” Wallace says “because it gives them – in this case, Beto O’Rourke – five chances to be seen by a statewide audience on television and newspapers, really kind of getting hs name out there.”

Wallace says Cruz is probably willing to take the risk because he “is confident in his debate skills.”

Wallace says Cruz hopes to slow some of O’Rourke’s momentum, with one or more good debate performances.

For O’Rourke, debates are an unknown forum. The Democrat has made his name at large rallies, giving off-the-cuff performances before friendly crowds. Debates, wallace says, require a different skill set.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.