Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has declined to participate in a CNN town hall-style meeting next week with his Democratic opponent, leaving the entire one-hour broadcast to his challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Cruz and O’Rourke have been in a tight race for Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat, and polls indicate that the incumbent is maintaining a slight edge. Texas last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen won re-election in 1988.
In a write-up of its televised political events, CNN announced: “CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash will moderate a live, one-hour town hall with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is running for US Senate, on Thursday, October 18, at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT at the McAllen Performing Arts Center near the US-Mexico border.”
“GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign initially accepted CNN’s invitation to participate but later declined, a network official said,” CNN said.
Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, disputed that account.
“To be clear,” Roe tweeted, “the Cruz campaign proposed that @CNN host one of the Cruz-O’Rourke debates. The O’Rourke campaign declined. @CNN subsequently offered back to back town halls, in which we are unable to participate.”
Roe did not say why Cruz could not participate, but some Twitter users speculated that the senator was afraid to appear in a town hall setting with O’Rourke.
Meanwhile, a new anti-Cruz ad directed by Richard Linklater has garnered nearly 1 million views on YouTube since it was posted Monday by a political action committee called Fire Ted Cruz.
In the ad, actor Sonny Carl Davis reprises his role from the Linklater movie “Bernie” and pointedly questions the accuracy of Cruz’s campaign slogan, “Tough as Texas.”