It’s not uncommon for political debates to end with each candidate being asked to pay a compliment to their opponent—a nod to unity during an inherently divisive event. But when asked to name a quality he admires in his challenger, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Texas Senator Ted Cruz couldn’t resist tossing out some thoroughly backhanded praise. While O’Rourke said that he admired the Senator’s “sacrifice and love of country,” Cruz said that he thinks the Congressman is “sincere”—sincere in his belief in “expanding government and higher taxes.”
“True to form,” said O’Rourke of Cruz’s response. The same could be said for the debate as a whole, which is part of a much-watched match-up that finds Cruz fighting to keep his Senate seat in an election that pollsters are now calling a toss-up. The candidates tackled some of the most contentious issues in politics, including immigration, race and policing, and NFL protests.
O’Rourke’s campaign strategy has always centered the concerns of Texans of color, which Cruz has tried to use against him. During the debate, he criticized the Congressman for calling for the firing Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, after she shot the unarmed Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment. “I don’t know what happened that evening, Congressman O’Rourke doesn’t know what happened that evening,” said Cruz. “But he immediately called for firing the officer. I think that’s a mistake.” Guyger has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting.