The first debate between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) was a high-energy, sharp affair that crackled with each candidate’s dislike of the other.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted

Poised and prepared, they argued their cases to their own bases in performances that confirmed everything their supporters and detractors believed about them. Moderators Julie Fine and Gromer Jeffers Jr. Topics asked pointed questions about immigration, police brutality and anthem protests, gun control, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and the President’s job performance, among other domestic policy issues.

O’Rourke, who has heretofore kept his campaign positive and upbeat, was combative and tense during the hourlong event at Southern Methodist Univ. in Dallas.

Libertarian nominee Neal Dikeman was not included in the debate. In a series of tweets, he provided a list of reasons why the candidates were “glad I wasn’t on the debate stage,” which included “Ted wouldn’t have been able to pretend he’s a Libertarian.”

Cruz and O’Rourke will debate in Houston on September 30 and in San Antonio on October 16.

The debate followed national pundit Charlie Cook moving the race to “toss up” from “lean Republican,” making him the first of the major prognosticators to do so. Most of the national pundits have the race rated as “lean Republican,” as do we. Cook noted that “Cruz isn’t terribly popular” while O’Rourke has “generated a great deal of enthusiasm among Democrats and independents.” Because O’Rourke has campaigned against PAC money, Cook reasoned that outside groups such as Club for Growth “swoop[ing] in with millions in television advertising might well be counterproductive.”

The debate also followed the release of two polls showing the race remains tight.

Public Policy Polling released a second poll is as many days (PDF) showing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) with a three-point lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso). The Democrat-leaning firm conducted the poll for End Citizens United, which has endorsed O’Rourke. Yesterday, we discussed a PPP poll conducted for Protect Our Care, a group fighting efforts to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act.

The ECU poll shows Cruz leading O’Rourke, 49%-46%. The SOC poll had the race at 48%-45%. Cruz is viewed more favorably by the ECU sample (49/45) than the SOC sample (43/48). Both samples were evenly split when it comes to O’Rourke’s favorability, 43/42 and 39/40.

The poll of 603 “Texas voters” was in the field September 19-20. The stated margin of error is ±4%. Crosstabs were not provided.

Meanwhile, a Reform Austin poll shows Cruz leading O’Rourke, 49%-45%, including “leaners.” Cruz leads among men, 58%-37%. It appears that O’Rourke leads among women, 50%-44%, although the “crosstabs” have these numbers reversed. Cruz leads among “independents,” 49%-44%.

Cruz leads among Anglos, 59%-36%, while O’Rourke leads among Hispanic/Latino voters, 66%-27%. This is a higher figure than we’ve seen in other recent polls. For example, a recent Quinnipiac Univ. poll showed O’Rourke with a 54%-45% lead among Hispanic/Latino voters.

Voters under 35 prefer O’Rourke, 63%-38%. Voters aged 65 and older prefer Cruz, 54%-39%.

The poll of 1,161 “likely Texas voters” was in the field September 11-12. It has a stated margin of error of ±3%.

Recent polls and our reports about them:

We will repost this list with additional polls as we get closer to Election Day.

* We have serious reservations about the Ipsos and Emerson polls and included them in our reports, and on this list, solely because they received national news attention.

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