The fight to fill Texas' Senate seat is heating up. As of Thursday, RealClearPolitics identifies the race between incumbent Ted Cruz (R–Texas) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D–Texas) as a toss-up. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Cruz still leads his opponent by 4 points. But that lead was in double digits just a few months ago, and O'Rourke has managed to match Cruz's funding.
In the past month alone, here are some of the stories to come out of the campaign.
Beto O'Rourke is Too Cool
Both Cruz and O'Rourke have dodged several debate invitations. But when O'Rourke did not accept Cruz's challenge to debate in late August, the Texas Republican Party suggested that he was busy doing something else. The Texas GOP's Twitter account took various shots at O'Rourke, telling the world that he used to be a skater, played in a old punk band, and got a DUI.
Maybe Beto can't debate Ted Cruz because he already had plans… pic.twitter.com/LdqKTh3yK4
— Texas GOP (@TexasGOP) August 28, 2018
Setting aside the DUI, several on Twitter questioned whether or not the Texas GOP was going after O'Rourke for being too…cool? Others responded by posting mugshots belonging to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and sharing reminders that there's a picture of Cruz dressed as a creepy mime.
Unbothered by the backlash, the Texas GOP later tweeted, "Based on the reaction to our tweets we can confirm that Beto is in fact going to receive 100% of the vote from Buzzfeed contributors, out of state liberals, and people who use the word 'rad.' We feel very owned." The tweet concluded with a crying face.
Cruz also launched his own attack on O'Rourke's character with an ad criticizing the candidate for saying "fuck" in public.
O'Rourke and the Protesters
O'Rourke's support for various methods of protest have become a central focus in the race. He attracted attention, for example, for saying those who support or oppose football players taking a knee are "every bit as American, all the same."
'I can think of nothing more American.' — Beto O'Rourke — the man taking on Ted Cruz — brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful pic.twitter.com/bEqOAYpxEL
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 21, 2018
Cruz has accused O'Rourke of supporting another kind of protest: flag-burning. When a man asked O'Rourke what he thought about burning the flag, the candidate gave a long-winded answer that included a comment that "there is something inherently American" about speaking out against injustice. The Cruz campaign cut the exchange down to make it appear as though O'Rourke believed it "inherently American" to burn an American flag.
(It should be noted that the Supreme Court ruled in 1989's Texas v. Johnson that burning an American flag is protected by the First Amendment's free speech clause. The late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, was among those who voted in favor of flag-burner Gregory Lee Johnson.)
The Undocumented Immigrant Vote
A few Texas voters received text messages, supposedly sent on behalf of O'Rourke's campaign, asking if they would be willing to transport undocumented immigrants to polling stations. O'Rourke campaign spokesperson Chris Evans denied that the messages were authorized by the campaign and claimed they were "sent by an imposter."
This is an actual text a friend in Texas just received. It is NOT from the Beto campaign. Very slick, Ted Cruz & Texas Republicans. pic.twitter.com/oyIU2TzoA4
— Jerry Ochoa (@jerryochoa) September 5, 2018
Donald Trump Intervenes
It's no secret that Cruz and President Trump have had a contentious relationship. As opponents in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Trump tried to tie Cruz's father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, insinuated that Cruz's wife is unattractive, and even tweeted the following:
Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished absolutely nothing for them. He is another all talk, no action pol!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
Cruz responded by refusing to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention, saying, "I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father." He reversed himself later and made volunteer phone calls for Trump's presidential campaign.
Pushing their history aside, Cruz asked Trump to campaign for him in Texas. Trump agreed and tweeted that he would find "the biggest stadium in Texas" for their joint rally in October. In response, activists have started a GoFundMe to place Trump's February 2016 tweet about Cruz on a mobile billboard.