It won't be a 'steel cage death match,' but it will be close, as Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke meet at Southern Methodist University tonight for the first of three scheduled debates, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The debate comes amid varying polls on the campaign. One poll earlier this week had Cruz ahead of O'Rourke up by 9 points, while another had O'Rourke up by 2 in what has become one of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the country.
Rice University political analyst Mark Jones says the heat is on O'Rourke.
"I think for Beto, scoring a victory is much more important than it is for Cruz," he told News Radio 1200 WOAI. "If Cruz draws with Beto, he's happy. If Beto draws with Cruz, then he's lost an opportunity."
Jones says each candidate will try to get the best out of his unique style.
"Beto is certainly very social, very charismatic, very loquatious," he said. "But he is certainly going to be debating someone who is among the best debaters in the U.S. Senate.
Cruz lately has been pounding O'Rourke on controversial positions ranging from banning the sale of A-R 15s to supporting NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem to supporting decriminalization of many drug offenses.
He has also hit O'Rourke for a 1990s era drunk driving arrest, and the fact that he tried to run from police following the incident.
O'Rourke has attacked Cruz for being a pawn of the National Rifle Association and other powerful conservative groups, and for being more focused on running for president than with helping Texans.
O'Rourke has clearly fired up the Democrat base, while the Republican base is still somewhat cool about Cruz, who failed to endorse President Trump at the 2016 Republican convention.
1200 WOAI will broadcast the debate, starting at 8PM.