CBSN

Ted Cruz, Beto O'Rourke to hold 3 debates

DALLAS -- Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke have agreed to debate each other three times before the U.S. Senate election in November. 

In statements issued Friday, the two agreed to debate domestic policy before live audiences on Sept. 21 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Sept. 30 at the University of Houston. A third debate on domestic and foreign policy issues is scheduled on Oct. 16 before a live television studio audience in San Antonio. 

O'Rourke is a three-term congressman from El Paso who's giving up his seat to challenge Cruz. The Republican was first elected to the Senate in 2012. 

Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, but O'Rourke's campaign has attracted considerable attention nationally. 

According to a CBS Dallas / Dixie Strategies poll, likely voters in Texas were asked who they would vote for if the election for U.S. Senate were held today. While Cruz is ahead in the poll with only four points separating him from O'Rourke, the result is a statistical tie – within the margin of error of 4.3 percent. Of all likely voters in Texas surveyed, 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for Ted Cruz while 42 percent said they would vote for O'Rourke. 

O'Rourke is hosting a town hall in South Dallas Friday evening, CBS Dallas reports. A crowd of about 1,700 people is expected at the Good Street Baptist Church at 6:00 p.m.

SMU political science professor Cal Jillson told CBS Dallas Rep. O'Rourke must jump ahead in the polls by the beginning of October to have a legitimate shot at winning.

"Beto O'Rourke has run a great race.  He's within striking distance," said Jillson.  "But he's got to get ahead of Cruz by three or four or five points before he is safe on Election Day."