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TX-Sen: Cruz, O'Rourke race heats up with new polls, canceled debate, jousting over anthem protests

A new poll shows a statistical dead heat in the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

The Texas Senate race is heating up.

Some recent polls show Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) neck and neck, but voters shouldn't count on seeing the two candidates go toe to toe any time soon.

Congressman O'Rourke announced Monday that the scheduled debate against Cruz on Friday in Dallas won't be happening after all. The debate in Dallas was to be the first of five.

"Friday in Dallas is not going to happen, but I'm convinced we will debate," O'Rourke said during an appearance in Austin, according to the Texas Tribune. "I'm convinced there will be a number of debates."

O'Rourke claimed that Cruz's camp was trying to control the aspects of the debate, including the topics, moderators and time, according to The Tribune.

In a statement to TheBlaze, Emily Miller, Cruz campaign spokeswoman, said, "He begged for debates, but when Sen. Cruz invited him to five debates all across Texas, suddenly O’Rourke seemed to get scared. So — except for when he has to be in D.C. for his work in the Senate — Cruz is ready and excited to debate O’Rourke, including this Friday. Texans should ask O’Rourke why he hasn’t said yes to a single debate while running for U.S. Senate."

And both candidates have stirred headlines after O'Rourke's campaign posted a recent video of him discussing his support of the ever-controversial "take a knee" protests during the national anthem.

What else on the "take a knee" topic?

O'Rourke's comments followed a question from an audience member, who expressed their frustration with NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem and asked O'Rourke whether or not he thought it was a "disrespectful" gesture to the country and military veterans.

"I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee, for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace," O'Rourke said in YouTube video recorded during a stop in Houston.

His support for NFL players who "take a knee" gained national attention from celebrities and professional athletes.

Ellen Degeneres tweeted that she wants to meet O'Rourke.

And NBA superstar LeBron James called O'Rourke's remarks a "must watch" and "candid thoughtful words."

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What did Cruz say?

Cruz blasted back at O'Rourke's remarks last week during a town hall in Corpus Christi and more recently in the senator's latest ad featuring a military veteran.

The ad starts with O'Rourke talking about why he believes it's OK to kneel during the anthem.

"Liberal Hollywood was thrilled [with O'Rourke's stance], but do Texans agree?" the narrator asks.

Next, it cuts to Ret. Marine Corps Sgt. Tim Lee, a Vietnam combat veteran, who has accompanied Cruz on some recent campaign stops.

"Who would ever believe that we would have issues about whether we would stand during the national anthem or not?" said Lee, who's sitting in a wheelchair.

He lost both his legs when he stepped on a landmine in 1971.

"I gave two legs for this country. I'm not able to stand but I sure expect you to stand for me when that national anthem is played," Lee said.

Watch the full ad:

What about the latest polls show?

The latest poll showed the two candidates in a statistical dead heat made headlines across the internet late Monday.

The e-poll released Monday by Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, had Cruz leading, garnering 38 percent support compared to 37 percent for O'Rourke.

Still, 21 percent of the 550 voters polled were undecided with just over two months left until the Nov. 6 elections. The survey, which has a 4.4 percent margin of error, was conducted Aug. 22-25.

Last week, an NBC News/Marist Poll of 759 registered voters showed Cruz with a 4-point lead over his challenger and 6 percent were undecided. The phone survey was taken Aug. 12-16 and had a 3.8 percent margin of error.

Both of these polls were conducted of registered voters, rather than likely voters.

Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has rated Cruz as the likely winner.

One last thing…
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