Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who excels in debates, has asked his Democratic challenger, progressive candidate Beto O'Rourke, for a series of five debates to be held on five consecutive Friday evenings, all on different topics.
According to a letter received by O'Rourke's campaign, Cruz is willing to go head-to-head with the Texas Democrat whose campaign has drawn millions of dollars in donations, mostly from outside Texas, and from progressive activists looking to unseat the outspoken former presidential candidate.
The series would take Cruz and O'Rourke on a small statewide tour, the Texas Tribune reports:
Cruz strategist Jeff Roe sent a letter Wednesday to O'Rourke, an El Paso congressman, proposing the following debate schedule:
Aug. 31 in Dallas on "Jobs/Taxes/Federal Regulations/National Economy"
Sept. 14 in McAllen on "Immigration/Border Security/Criminal Justice/Supreme Court"
Sept. 21 in San Antonio on "Foreign Policy/National Security"
Oct. 5 in Houston on "Energy/Trade/Texas Economy"
Oct. 12 in Lubbock on "Healthcare/Obamacare"
If O'Rourke agrees to the rigorous schedule, each debate would be an hour long and of a different format (though Cruz seems happy to repeat certain formats if O'Rourke so chooses). Cruz's team is clear in the letter that times, dates, locations, and topics are not up for negotiation — particularly since the Senate will be in session August through October, leaving Cruz available only on Friday nights. Cruz is willing to "work with" O'Rourke on media partners, sponsorships, and moderators.
Sensing that he might be in for a bit of trouble, O'Rourke did not immediately agree to Cruz's proposal. His team had sent a request for a series of debates to Cruz's team earlier in the spring, but included two Spanish-language debates, knowing that Cruz's Spanish probably wasn't strong enough to use in a debate setting. O'Rourke's team followed up, but seemed to be satisfied with Cruz's inevitable response, turning down Spanish-language debates.
Now that things are more urgent, O'Rourke's team is less committed to the idea of debates.
"I am encouraged that Sen. Cruz has decided that he’s ready to debate the issues. Our campaign looks forward to working with his campaign to finalize mutually agreed upon details," the Democrat said in a statement.
The system of debates clearly benefits Cruz. The sitting Texas senator is a talented debater and does well in all debate formats. O'Rourke has been "begging" for Cruz to respond to his campaign, though turning down a series of debates would prove that O'Rourke's braggadocio is largely for his national audience of supporters and not for potential Texas constituents.
Cruz leads his opponent by an average of nine points, according ot Real Clear Politics.