O'Rourke: I had to be aggressive in debate to fight 'dishonest' Cruz attacks

Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE (D-Texas) said Wednesday he felt he had to be more aggressive during his second debate with Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R-Texas) to counter the incumbent’s “dishonest” attacks.

“I became convinced after that first debate that I had to draw a very clear and clean and precise distinction,” O’Rourke told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board in an interview.

O’Rourke disputed a number of claims Cruz has made, including that the Democrat wants open borders, legalization of heroin and favors higher oil prices. Each of the attacks are false, O’Rourke told the Express-News, and he worried that if he didn’t assertively deny them, they’d gain traction.

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O’Rourke went on the offensive in Tuesday’s debate, marking a notable shift from his first debate with Cruz.

“He’s dishonest,” O’Rourke said of Cruz at one point. “That’s why the president called him ‘Lyin’ Ted.’ And that’s why the nickname stuck. Because it’s true.”

The congressman later suggested Cruz “won’t stand up” to Trump, who regularly insulted the senator when the two were foes during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cruz, who has aimed to portray O’Rourke as too liberal for Texas, took note of his challenger’s more aggressive tact.

“Well it’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz said.

Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally for Cruz in Houston on Monday, joined in on the attacks on O’Rourke earlier Wednesday, labeling the Democrat a “flake.”

While O’Rourke has captured national attention with his viral speeches and eye-popping fundraising hauls, Cruz maintains a steady lead over him in most polls with less than three weeks until election day. 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election forecaster, rates the Texas Senate race as a “toss-up.”

A RealClearPolitics average of polls in the race shows Cruz with a 7-point lead in the race. 

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