The conservative state of Texas is becoming a major focal point ahead of next month's midterm elections. Incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won his seat by almost 16 percentage points in 2012, but recent polls show a rising Democratic star, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, is. Despite the state's changing demographics, O'Rourke will need strong support from Latinos and young voters to beat Cruz.
For Cruz, winning re-election in the deeply-red state of Texas should be easy. But Cruz now finds himself in a tight race against O'Rourke, who's trying to turn the state blue for the first time since 1994.
"I think at this moment, it's not about Democrats or Republicans or party politics or the differences that have always seemed define us. It's about this country coming together around the things that we care most about at this moment of truth," O'Rourke told "CBS This Morning" co-host Bianna Golodryga. "We're either going to be a country of walls, Muslim bans, and the press as the enemy of the people, or instead we'll be defined by our ambitions."
Asked why the race is as close as it is, Cruz said, "At the end of the day, we're going to win this race. The reason that we have a competitive race is it is clear that the hard left, the extreme left in this country, that they're angry… Many of them are filled with hatred for President Trump and it colors everything else."
The two couldn't be further apart on key issues. O'Rourke is trying to sell a progressive agenda, including stricter gun restrictions, universal health care, and abortion rights. Cruz said he's more aligned with Texans on multiple fronts, including border security and strong Second Amendment protections.
"Texans want lower taxes, we want lower regulations, we want more jobs, higher wages and more opportunity," Cruz said. "We want to secure the border… Those are the common-sense values that bring Texas together."
"Whether it's freeing 'Dreamers' from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens, or bringing Republicans and Democrats together to ensure that our immigration laws reflect our values and are written in our own image, those are things that Texans of all walks of life and background want us to lead on – want us to work together on," O'Rourke said.
Before running for Senate, O'Rourke was a punk rock bassist who ran a software company before being elected to three terms in Congress representing El Paso. His profile spiked last year when he live streamed an
His campaign has broken all conventional rules.
"Not only have we been to every one of the 254 counties of Texas, we've accepted no help from political action committees, special interests or corporations – all people all the time," O'Rourke said.
Cruz is a conservative icon. The married father of two was the star of the failed 2013 government shutdown on Obamacare and the Republican that came closest to beating President Trump in the 2016 primaries. It was a fight that turned personal, with Mr. Trump calling him "lying Ted Cruz."
"A lot of people wonder, 'Why doesn't that seem to bother you more than it would anybody else?'" Golodryga asked.
"You know, I will say the media sadly is obsessed with personality, is obsessed with 'Trump derangement center.' Listen, we had a vigorous primary," Cruz said.
"You told people to vote their conscience," Golodryga said.
"It was hard fought, but it's over. And when the president was elected, I made a choice," Cruz said. "I made a choice for the people of Texas. I can either choose to have hurt feelings and say, 'Alright, it's all about me and I'm going to be selfish and I'm going to take my marbles and go home.' Or I can choose to do my job which is represent 28 million Texans and work with the president, work cooperatively to get real solutions for real problems."
O'Rourke said he, too, would "absolutely" work with the president if elected senator.
"I'll find every possible way to work with anyone, including President Trump, as we have done in the past to advance this country's agenda and to do better for the people that I serve," O'Rourke said.
Cruz also weighed in on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and fiery testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said Kavanaugh "absolutely" has the temperament to be a Supreme Court Justice.after his
"That has been demonstrated because for over a decade, he has been one of the most respected federal appellate judges in the country," Cruz said.