Beto O’Rourke makes apparent Clash reference during Cruz debate

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Judd Apatow Hosting Hollywood Fundraiser for Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke Frederick M. Brown Getty Images AP

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 - 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.

Texas voters were treated Friday evening to a Senate debate conducted throughout at an extremely high level that presented a stark contrast between full-blown conservatism and liberalism.

The hourlong debate at Southern Methodist University focused on domestic policy. "I know what a sacrifice that is to his family", O'Rourke said.

"This race is most likely to be determined in suburban districts of Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio", Matthew Wilson, a Professor of Political Science at SMU, told ABC News, "If Beto O'Rourke is going to win he's going to have to persuade a lot of moderate, traditional Republicans to cross party lines".

He's visited all 254 Texas counties, including areas that Democrats long ago gave up on - a fact he mentioned repeatedly during the debate.

Both candidates tried to don the mantle as a "fighter", although Mr. Cruz warned at the end that should Mr. O'Rourke be elected his causes may not jibe with many Texans.

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O'Rourke added that, while he and Cruz disagree on the best moves to make, he has no question that Cruz "wants to do the best for America". The New York Times reported earlier this month that Mick Mulvaney, a top official in the Trump administration, warned a room of top Republican donors this month that Cruz could lose his re-election bid because he's not "likeable" enough.

Recent polls show that the race between Cruz and O'Rourke is relatively close for Texas, which has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

Like Sanders, Cruz said O'Rourke believes in socialism.

Asked Friday about Trump's 2016 criticism, which included making fun of Cruz's wife's appearance and suggesting that his Cuban-born father had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Cruz said, "I could have chosen to make it about myself", but instead he said he worked with Trump to further Texas interests.

O'Rourke's candidacy has drawn large crowds in Texas and a following among progressives nationally.

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