Cruz said that Dr. Martin Luther King would not have "stood for" Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protests, during which the NFL player famously kneeled pregame to bring awareness to police-involved violence. Cruz appeared to be referring to O'Rourke previously suggesting that inherent biases in the criminal justice system promote racism.
On Twitter, both candidates' names trended as "Ted Cruz" tweets in the US topped out at just shy of 70,000, while "Beto" tweets got to 132,000.
Cruz and O'Rouke last week agreed to three debates.
The debate at Dallas' Southern Methodist University also saw Cruz criticize O'Rourke's past support for legalizing marijuana, evoking his older half-sister, Miriam, who died of a drug overdose. President Trump has pledged to hold a rally in Texas with Cruz ahead of the election. "I think this is by design for the O'Rourke campaign, they've wanted to create that visual sense that they are making inroads in hostile territory", Wilson added.
"I did not try to leave the scene of the accident", O'Rourke responded. O'Rourke shouted out his "uncle Raymond", who taught him to shoot a firearm and was in law enforcement. Democrats need to win a net total of two additional seats to take the Senate and 23 to assume the majority in the House.
O'Rourke's candidacy has drawn large crowds in Texas and a following among progressives nationally. "If Texas elects a Democrat, they're going to ban barbecue across the state".
If they win either chamber, much of President Donald Trump's agenda could be hamstrung and his administration would be subjected to greater scrutiny.
Mr. O'Rourke was measured in his criticism of Mr. Trump, although he did not dispute Mr. Cruz's point that Mr. O'Rourke is the only Democratic Senate candidate in these midterms who has vowed to vote to impeach Mr. Trump should the chance arise.