Texas Senate Showdown: The Final Debate

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Rhetorical slams, elbows, and jabs: it was a regular senatorial wannabe slugfest last night in Houston, where Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst met for their final debate before the July 31st runoff. Payroll taxes, Chinese firms, border walls, disclosure, and trustworthiness were primary (actually, runoff) topics. There was no clear winner of the debate.

However, Dewhurst was undoubtedly prepared to fight for his life after two polls last week showed Cruz ahead. Dewhurst had solid answers on his conservative credentials, slamming Cruz for essentially being a lackey lawyer for the state rather than leading his own fights. Cruz, at times, was surprisingly muted. It is unclear how many people watched the debate, but it is often more important whether the candidates can use debate clips in TV ads. Cruz did this to great effect with clips of Dewhurst talking about his negotiating skills.

I think Dewhurst had a good night. Even if he wasn't the unequivocal winner, the debate didn't fit the narrative told by those polls. Dewhurst was clear, strong, and ready to win. It's possible the polls actually lit the fire under Dewhurst that he needed to be something other than the most obvious candidate in the world. On Monday, the candidates released their fundraising numbers. Between May 10 and June 30, Cruz brought in $1.7 million and Dewhurst brought in $1.5 million. Clearly, if Dewhurst didn't start to make a stop this week, Cruz had a very good chance of keeping his poll and fundraising momentum going until voters go to the polls. But if Dewhurst can turn around the narrative now, he might prove Cruz to have peaked too soon. Two weeks is a lot of time in politics.

After the debate, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert endorsed Dewhurst. Leppert said he had spoken with both runoff candidates after the primary and made his choice based on Dewhurst's budgetary experience: “We must elect leaders who have the experience of creating jobs and dealing with the fiscal issues facing our nation – leaders with a practical understanding of what makes our country work,” he said. “David Dewhurst has that experience and it is for that reason that I endorse David Dewhurst for the U.S. Senate. David has created jobs and understands the private sector. He has proven his leadership skills in the private and public sectors and will be an asset to Texas in Washington.”

The Dallas Morning News has a rundown of the exact exchanges in last night's debate. Let us know who you think came out ahead in the comments.

CONSERVATIVE RECORDS

Ted Cruz: Let me be clear, my campaign from Day One has been based on a proven record.

David Dewhurst: There's a difference between being a staff attorney and arguing those cases that your boss tells you to argue and saying those things that your boss tells you to argue. … I'm not sure what you've done in the past is a record.

Cruz: If you want to know my record, you can look at what I've spent a lifetime doing, starting from literally as a teenager, when with the Free Enterprise Institute in Houston, I memorized the U.S. Constitution.

PAYROLL TAX

Cruz: The lieutenant governor's office issued a press release praising the Senate for passing a payroll tax. Whenever anyone points to his record, his response is to call them a liar, and I'm curious to know if he thinks his own website is lying.

Dewhurst: Ted, you know state government better than that. That's disingenuous. I have never praised a payroll tax.

CHINESE TIRE CASE

Cruz: Our country is in crisis. We're going broke, we have a $16 trillion national debt, and what the lieutenant governor wants to talk about is Chinese mining tires.

Dewhurst: There are lots of clients out there. He chose to represent a company that already had a $26 million judgment against them.

SPEECH ARCHIVING

Cruz: It's a curious definition of transparency to say that Texans have to drive to Austin and request a physical copy of the speech instead of being able to Google it and find what he said.

Dewhurst: To imply that there was anything improper done, my friend, I'm not the one who was just fined by the Senate Ethics Committee. You're not even a U.S. senator, and you've been fined the maximum for not turning in your financial form on time.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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