Monday, October 15, 2018

Cruz vs. O’ Rourke Debate #2B

 Senator Ted Cruz and representative Beto O’Rourke will debate Tuesday evening October 16 8 p.m. Tuesday at the KENS5 Studios in San Antonio. The candidates will answer questions about domestic and international issues, according to KENS. Sarah Forgany of KENS and Jason Whitely of WFAA in Dallas will moderate the event.

Situation of the Race

The situation of the race has changed considerably from the first debate to the two candidates had at SMU in September.  At that time, the race was quite close and some polls indicated O’Rourke was ahead.  That close status added to the nationalizing of the O’Rourke campaign helping him gain publicity on several national media outlets.  Moreover, a record $38 million poured into O’Rourke’s campaign-- vastly surpassing the incumbent Cruz.  To some extent, the popular perception nationally that a major conservative Republican candidate like Cruz could be beat by a relatively unknown Democrat captured the imagination of the national political left.  Despite those two positive developments for O’Rourke, the campaign appears to be moving decisively in the direction of Cruz.  Major polling indicators such as Real Clear politics suggest that Cruz is now 9 points ahead in the polls.  The first debate appears to not have helped the O’Rourke campaign surge ahead in the polls.  O’Rourke appears to prefer the solitary campaign approach to the recurring debates.  The original second debate for Houston was not re-scheduled when the Kavanaugh hearings de-railed Cruz’s presence at the event. 

CNN proposed a townhall event between the two candidates near the time of the San Antonio debate.  Cruz has refused and counter offered that the two men should have a debate instead of a townhall.  Currently, CNN is planning to provide an uninterrupted one hour town hall for O’Rourke in Texas.  Townhall events are controlled by the media hosts and the individuals in the event are screened by CNN before they can appear at the event.  The individuals within the event are also chosen by CNN.  CNN has engaged in considerable controversy in relation to the Cruz campaign.  Don Lemon-- a CNN host-- made dramatic points about how interrupting Cruz and his wife at dinner in DC is part of protected First Amendment speech. 

The San Antonio debate may be the last debate of the two candidates. 

What O’Rourke needs to do:

  1. 1. O’Rourke needs to create political distinctions that appeal to Texas voters.  O’ Rourke has distanced himself from strident appeals made by Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder suggesting that civility has been suspended in American political dialogue until after the midterm elections.  O’Rourke thrives in unifying rhetoric that explains how he is for Republicans and Democrats.  This does not however help voters who are trying to choose between O’Rourke and Cruz.  O’Rourke’s strategy is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s red/blue convention speech that blurred political distinctions. 
  2. 2.O’Rourke needs to break the Cruz boxes.  Cruz did successfully box O’Rourke into non-Texas values regarding police and economic policies.  O’Rourke needs to convince the audience that he is not a liberal outsider threatening the success of Texas.

What Cruz needs to do:

  1. 1. Cruz needs to kill with kindness.  Cruz has unusually high negative ratings and in debate one he suffered his worst moment when he failed to allow an untarnished compliment to pass to his opponent when prompted by moderators at the end of the debate. Cruz would be wise to affirm ORourke’s recent criticism of protesters interrupting his dinner in DC with his wife.  Such gestures can kill with kindness.
  2. 2.Cruz needs to further bolster his base.  Supporters are recently re-assured by polls placing Cruz more firmly in the lead but they would like to see Cruz show a more dramatic conservative flair in argument.  Cruz is a former college debater and as he explained to CNN he has debated Senator Sanders on their shows.  Cruz has the abilities to make strong arguments publicly against opponents that are memorable.  Cruz needs some hard hitting statements to stir his base to act on his behalf at the poll.

Predictions:

  1. 1. O’Rourke will continue to fade in this debate process.  Incumbents always do worst in their first debate and get better as the events proceed.  Cruz is still a polished debater and television speaker.  O’Rourke’s townhall habit has become a crutch he seems unable to escape from rhetorically. 
  2. 2.O’Rourke’s best chance is that Cruz may be too aggressive and over step.  Media fact checkers will aggressively go after Cruz so he could misstep on attacking O’Rourke too harshly as O’Rourke has taken pains to be rather non-specific about many controversial issues.

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