Score sheet of debate
Good quality of debate. Good clash. Cruz provided more substantive rebuttals to his opponents positions. O’Rourke had a strong strategy of appealing to a notion of Cruz not working for Texas but this was effectively refuted by Cruz’s examples of legislative authorship in the Senate.
The most important ramification of tonight’s debate may be the irony that in losing tonight’s debate, O’Rourke has secured his consideration as the pre-eminent dark horse Presidential candidate for 2020. In many respects, O’ Rourke’s poorly adapted national persona that resembles Robert Kennedy more than Ann Richards has a weak fit for the Texas electorate but has already secured record funding of tens of millions dollars from national and international donors. Similar considerations were made of Ann Richards and other strong Texas Democrats. It does not appear that O’Rourke has galvanized a Texas warrant for his political arguments in the campaign thus far.
A problem with the debate was media moderator Jason Whitley. Whitley interrupted Cruz repeatedly as he started to answer clearly stated questions. It was clear that Whitley did not agree with Cruz’s answers and sought to re-interrogate Cruz to compel him in an expected direction. This is a clear violation of the expectations of a debate and demonstrates again why journalists should not be moderating debates. The same interruptions were not apparent when O’Rourke was answering. There was a legitimate practice and interest in stopping the debaters when the allotted time was consumed but there should not be interruptions of answers as performed by Whitley.
Cruz’s strongest answer of the night was round 7 where he explained his tax relief bill for hurricane Harvey victims and identified one of the four opposing Democrats in the House during that vote for the legislation as Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke had very little in the way of a response to this charge and answers like these tended to whither the rather shrewd pre-debate logic O’Rourke planned to deploy urging voters to see Cruz as a Senator who does not work for Texas.
O’Rourke’s stongest answer was in round 9 when he answered a question on civility. The strong answer is the culmination of the townhall style that O’Rourke has relied upon so adeptly in tours of the state. It also explains why Cruz is unlikely to accept CNN’s proposed townhall event with O’Rourke later this week.
Cruz was fortunate to find Jason Whitley in the unwise role of sparring partner rather than moderator. At least twice, Whitely tried to correct Cruz on his answers. At one point, Cruz told Whitley to allow him to answer the question. The problem of journalists moderating debates was well illustrated by Whitley’s conduct. This will allow Cruz to appeal to a common dialectic of journalists versus Republicans. This tends to serve Republican candidates well in elections.
Cruz appeared somewhat phased by a closing question about discussing something non-political that might be of interest to voters. Laughter gathered around his silence as he tried to think of something non-political. He did field a strong answer about being a Dad and the difficulty of missing his children’s special events such as basketball games.