Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) demonstrated Tuesday when he borrowed President Trump’s nickname for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), the onetime presidential candidate whose Senate seat O’Rourke is aiming to capture next month.
“He’s dishonest. It’s why the president called him ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ and it’s why the nickname stuck, because it’s true,” said the three-term congressman from El Paso, who is trailing the incumbent in polls. A Democrat hasn’t won statewide in Texas in 24 years.
Seeking to discredit criticism of his record, O’Rourke repurposed the barb against Trump’s former GOP presidential primary rival. Cruz has painted O’Rourke as too liberal for a deep-red state — out of touch with Texans on issues such as abortion and taxes. Cruz hit him particularly hard on his affirmation that he would vote to impeach the president, on whom likely voters in Texas are split 49 to 49, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last month. Trump carried the state by nearly 1 million votes in 2016.
“Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you,” O’Rourke said. “He’s going to make up positions and votes that I’ve never held or have ever taken.”
Cruz chortled. “It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” he replied.
O’Rourke’s approach did mark a departure from his posture in their first debate last month. The charismatic congressman, who has drawn enormous crowds and established himself as a formidable fundraiser, was more measured last time around, trying to deliver bite-sized versions of his sweeping stump speeches. Meanwhile, Cruz edged ahead in the polls.
On Tuesday night, the Democrat went on the attack with charges such as, “Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz.” He accused his opponent of being “all talk and no action.” And he sought to use the GOP president against Cruz, who clashed with Trump on the campaign trail in 2016.
“If you have this special relationship with President Trump, then where is the result of that?” O’Rourke asked. “You are all talk and no action.”
The president offered a review of the debate in a pair of tweets on Wednesday morning, praising the Republican’s record and judging that O’Rourke is “not in the same league with Ted Cruz.”
Trump is scheduled to appear Monday in Houston for a rally with Cruz. In response, activists have arranged a mobile billboard that will display for Texas voters some of the president’s previous observations about their junior senator.
During the Republican primary, Trump repeatedly denigrated Cruz, affixing the epithet “Lyin’ ” to Cruz’s name just as he attached “Little” to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and “Crooked” to Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. Trump escalated the offensive in the spring of 2016, as the field narrowed with the withdrawal of other GOP aspirants. He also attacked Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and associated his father with the assassin who shot John F. Kennedy. He called Cruz “the single biggest liar” and suggested that he was “worse than Hillary.”
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