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Ted Cruz jokes that Beto O'Rourke wants to ban BBQ in Texas

Senate races in Arizona, Texas

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has a new beef with Rep. Beto O'Rourke: Claiming the Democratic challenger will ban barbecue if elected.

Cruz has joked that the Lone Star State's most cherished food is at stake in the November election, after noticing PETA protesters at a campaign event. But the protesters had no connection to O'Rourke's campaign, and the Democratic candidate for the Senate has given no indication he wants to mess with meat.

Cruz, a Republican, first cracked the joke on Saturday after noticing a few PETA protesters outside an event at Schobels Restaurant in Columbus. "When I got here someone told me that even PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu, so I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they're going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas," Cruz told the crowd, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Cruz served up his claim again the next day in a tweet, writing, "@.peta protested our town hall yesterday, handing out barbecued tofu. We were glad to welcome them, but it illustrates the stakes af the election: if Beto wins, BBQ will be illegal!"

O'Rourke hasn't made any statements against barbecue during the race, and his campaign hasn't taken Cruz's bait. During the race, O'Rourke has in fact enjoyed many helpings of BBQ and other meats. Last November, he hosted 110 barbecues across the state in a single day, appearing at them virtually over YouTube Live. After a Cruz spokeswoman in August mocked O'Rourke as a "Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values," the Democratic candidate brought his campaign to a Whataburger franchise and ordered a Triple Meat Whataburger on Facebook Live.

Cruz has seemed hungry to make meat a central issue in the tight race. Speaking in Katy earlier this month, he told a crowd of supporters, "We are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue. They want us to be just like California. Right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair."
The audience booed during his remarks. 

Poll numbers for Cruz and O'Rourke have been tightening in the race's final weeks, though the latest Quinnipiac University poll showed Cruz with a nine-point lead.