Houston Matters

Analysis of Second Cruz-O’Rourke Debate

Two experts tell Houston Matters the debate didn’t make a big impact on the race

Two political analysts told Houston Matters they don't think Tuesday's debate between Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Congressman Beto O'Rourke made a big impact on a race that, according to polls, the GOP Senator will win.

RealClear Politics has Cruz leading by 7 points and Mark Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that gave the Republican Senator an advantage in the second debate, while O'Rourke “needed some type of knockout” that he didn't achieve.

“I think, overall, if you like Ted Cruz you are probably more likely to vote for Ted Cruz after last night’s debate and, if you like Beto O’Rourke, you’re more likely to vote for him,” Jones said. “That status quo benefits Cruz and it’s to Beto O’Rourke’s detriment.”

For David Branham, chair of Social Sciences and professor of Political Science at the University of Houston-Downtown, Cruz won the first debate and that gave him an advantage. “I think it gave him the jump on the campaign and last night I don’t think anything really changed. I think, you know, Beto is coming out swinging, he knows he’s down, but I don’t think the debate itself really changed a lot of minds.”

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, left, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, take part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in San Antonio.

At the same time, Jones noted that this contest is showing that “Texas is potentially competitive with the right Democratic candidate, the right message and with President Trump in the White House.”

Climate change was an important topic on Tuesday's debate and when he was asked about a position held by ExxonMobil about the risk of climate change being clear and warranting action, Cruz said the climate has been changing through the history of humanity and said too many Democrats approach the issue “as a matter of government power.”

For Jones, Cruz “dodged” the question about ExxonMobil. However, because the Republican Senator underscored he believes in science and mentioned chairing a hearing about global warming, “he effectively buried it in the sense that most people ended up thinking about sort of that he agreed with the idea of science, that he wasn’t serving the far camp that denies climate change.”

Branham said he thinks almost every politician agrees that climate change is happening and added that “the issue is how much is our human activity part of that climate change” and that has become a political issue. “It would be nice if we can somehow get something more definitive than a politician going back and forth on this,” the UH-Downtown professor said.

News 88.7 will rebroadcast the debate on Wednesday, October 17, at 8 p.m.

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