This is an unbiased comparison of the policies and political positions of Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz, the Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2018 Senate election in Texas. Ted Cruz is the incumbent seeking reelection; Beto O'Rourke is a Congressman representing Texas's 16th congressional district.
This comparison will be continually updated with policy proposals, debate videos and new polls, up until election day (November 6, 2018).
|Beto O'Rourke||Ted Cruz|
|Alma Mater||Columbia University||Princeton University, Harvard Law School|
|Date of birth||September 26, 1972||December 22, 1970|
|Position on Healthcare||Preserve Obamacare. Expand Medicaid. Favors universal healthcare but hasn't yet expressed support for Medicare for All.||Repeal Obamacare. Eliminate payroll taxes, which fund Social Security and Medicare.|
|Spouse(s)||Amy Hoover Sanders (m. 2005)||Heidi Suzanne Cruz|
|Children||2 boys and a girl||2 girls|
|Position on Abortion||Pro-choice; supports access to safe and legal emergency contraception and family planning services.||Pro-life, with no exceptions (not even exceptions for rape and incest). Prosecute and defund Planned Parenthood.|
|Position on Immigration||Supports the DREAM Act, granting citizenship to DREAMers, and a way for all undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship. Opposes border wall.||Build wall on Mexican border; deport all undocumented immigrants; opposes DREAM Act; end sanctuary jurisdictions; halt increases in legal immigration; end birthright citizenship|
|Place of Birth||El Paso, Texas||Calgary, Alberta, Canada|
|Tax Policies||Opposes the 2017 tax cut bill. Views it as a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy.||Supports tax cuts and the 2017 tax reform bill. When running for president, proposed eliminating payroll taxes, flat income tax of 10% and a "consumption tax" of 16%. Business income tax rate of 16%.|
|Position on Government Regulation||In favor of some regulation like increased family leave and antitrust laws to increase competition.||Eliminate federal agencies like the IRS and the departments that oversee energy, commerce, housing and education.|
|Profession||Politician, businessman||Politician, Attorney|
|Environmental Policies||Beto O'Rourke believes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be funded and empowered to oversee polluting industries like drilling and fracking. He also advocates the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accords.||Ted Cruz believes climate change is a myth and "pseudoscientific theory". Voted against the Clean Water Rule. Voted for bills to block the EPA’s restrictions on carbon pollution from existing power plant.|
|Position on Gun Rights||Is a gun-owner and claims he supports 2nd amendment. Supports background checks for all gun sales, closing the "gun show loophole", ending concealed carry reciprocity, and banning "weapons of war" like the AR-15. NRA rating: F||Staunch supporter of gun rights; Defended 31 states in District of Columbia v. Heller where the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on firearms in a 5-4 landmark decision. NRA rating: A+|
|Economic Policies||Supports stronger antitrust regulations to promote competition; promote consumer-protection regulations.||Resurrect the gold standard; eliminate payroll taxes; get rid of Export-Import Bank;|
|Residence||El Paso, Texas||Houston, Texas|
|Current Position||Congressman from Texas||U.S. Senator from Texas|
Early Life and Career
Interestingly, neither candidate goes by their legal name. Ted Cruz was born Rafael Edward Cruz and Beto O'Rourke's birth name is Robert. While O'Rourke is Irish-American, Cruz is Cuban-American; but O'Rourke is fluent in Spanish while Cruz is not.
Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada in 1970 to first-generation Cuban-American parents. He studied at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He is currently a senator from Texas, a position to which he was elected six years ago. Prior to that, Ted Cruz has worked as Solicitor General of Texas, an adjunct professor at University of Texas School of Law, domestic policy advisor to George W. Bush on his 2000 presidential campaign.
Beto O'Rourke was born in El Paso in 1972. He attended Columbia University and graduated with a degree in English Literature. He was in a band in college. After college, he worked at an Internet service provider in New York, then returned to El Paso and founded a software company, which his wife now runs. He has been a Congressman for the last six years—the same time that Cruz has been a senator.
In 1998 O'Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge for drunk driving. After he completed a court-recommended DWI program, the charges were dismissed and he went on to have a successful career, including on the El Paso city council from 2005 to 2011.
Differences in Economic Policy
O'Rourke has criticized President Trump for tariffs his administration has imposed on China, citing that retaliatory tariffs from China are hurting Texan farmers and businessmen. He has said the U.S. should support unionization of workers in Mexico so that American workers can become more competitive with them.
Cruz has also said that he favors free trade but has not directly addressed China tariffs.
Beto O'Rourke has criticized the 2017 tax cuts, labeling them a giveaway for corporations and wealthy individuals. Even though tax liability is likely to go down for all Americans after the bill takes effect, corporations and high-income households will see a much bigger reduction in their tax bill. O'Rourke has said that income inequality is at its highest level in about 100 years, and that the government will be unable to balance its budget after these tax cuts.
Cruz has said that the tax cuts are one of the big successes of the Republican administration since President Trump was elected. He credits the tax cuts for the strong economy, 4 million jobs added, and low unemployment. Cruz has said "When you cut taxes, when you simplify the tax code, when you lift the burden on small businesses,... it expands jobs, it expands opportunity."
Philosophically, Cruz is a libertarian and has a long anti-tax track record, including:
- advocating for eliminating the payroll tax, estate tax and the IRS
- advocating for a flat tax where the tax rate stays the same no matter what your income level is
- advocating for a "Fair Tax" i.e., the idea that the IRS should be abolished, there should be no income taxes, and that should be replaced by a single national sales tax. The idea is to tax consumption, not income.
As a Democrat, O'Rourke philosophy is to have a progressive tax system i.e., the tax rate increases on marginal income as income levels rise. He considers the flat tax to be regressive and believes that wealthier people should pay a higher portion of their income in taxes.
Ted Cruz has been vehement in his opposition to regulations. As an avowed libertarian, he has said he prefers more freedom and less regulations for businesses to thrive and for the economy to be strong.
Beto O'Rourke is in favor of expanding family leave and the progressive policy of rural broadband expansion. His economic policy proposals also mention lowering the barrier to entry for small businesses, which is often another way of saying deregulation. His proposals also include supporting stronger antitrust laws to promote competition.
Ted Cruz has criticized the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—on two fronts: rising premiums, and the fact that President's Obama's assurances that if you like your health plan you could keep it turned out to be misleading. He has said that he supports the most popular healthcare reform introduced by the Affordable Care Act—coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Beto O'Rourke has said that you can't repeal Obamacare and still keep coverage for pre-existing conditions. He has expressed support for universal healthcare and said that he believes healthcare is a human right, but has not publicly supported Medicare for all. He wants to protect the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid. He has expressed disappointment that the sate of Texas "left $100 billion dollars on the table" instead of working with the federal government to expand Medicaid.
Other positions of the two candidates on healthcare are as follows:
- wants to expand Medicaid to cover more people.
- favors creating a "public option" on the exchanges, which presumably is a version of Medicaid or Medicare that people can enroll in and pay premiums for
- has a goal of "achieving universal healthcare coverage—whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise"
- improve and continue to support the Affordable Care Act by incentivizing insurers e.g. guaranteeing continued payments for ACA subsidies and reimbursing insurers for high-cost individuals.
- repeal the Affordable Care Act
- allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines
- allowing insurance companies to offer policies with less coverage than under Obamacare
- allow individuals to use health savings accounts to pay for premiums
Bet O'Rourke has been unequivocal in his support for Roe v. Wade. He supports “policies that guarantee a woman’s access to birth control and emergency contraception.” He has said his goal is “ensuring that a woman’s right to choose is not compromised by limited access to safe and legal abortion services or family planning help.”
Ted Cruz is on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to abortion. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortions, with no exceptions (not even exceptions for rape and incest). He has said Planned Parenthood should be defunded and prosecuted.
Another area of stark contrast between O'Rourke and Cruz is civil rights and issues related to African-Americans. O'Rourke has said that NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem are protesting social injustice and that he does not find it disrespectful because it is a non-violent, peaceful way of trying to appeal to the nation's conscience about the fact that unarmed black people are being killed in large numbers, often by law enforcement.
When asked about law enforcement killing unarmed African-Americans during the first debate, Ted Cruz chose to focus instead on the death of police officers who are shot and killed in the line of duty. He has also criticized NFL players who kneel during the anthem because he says they are disrespecting the national flag.
O'Rourke has said he supports granting citizenship to "DREAMers"—undocumented immigrants who were children when they entered the United States illegally and who meet other criteria of the DREAM Act, such as having no criminal record. Ted Cruz has said he opposes a path to citizenship for DREAMers.
The divide between the two candidates goes deeper. Cruz has said his immigration policy is "Legal good; Illegal bad." He is in favor of building a wall along the southern border. Cruz also wants to deport all undocumented immigrants (an estimated 11 million people) while O'Rourke has said he supports creating a way for them to earn citizenship.
O'Rourke is also against the border wall. He has criticized wall proposal for seeking to use eminent domain to build the wall over private property instead of the actual border between the U.S. and Mexico. O'Rourke has also called for ending "the militarization of our immigration enforcement system", and closing "private immigration prisons and detention centers that are locking up families."
War on Drugs
O'Rourke has said that he wants to end the war on drugs. He is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. Cruz has said that he wants individual states to decide whether they want to legalize marijuana or not. Further, Ted Cruz has mischaracterized O'Rourke's position, lying and saying that O'Rourke wants to legalize cocaine and fentanyl.
Both O'Rourke and Cruz have said that they are gun owners and that they support the Second Amendment i.e., the right to bear arms. But O'Rourke has an "F" rating from the NRA while Cruz has an A+ rating from that organization.
Ted Cruz is opposed to any gun control measures. He has said that his solution to gun violence and mass shooting in schools is to fund security measures like metal detectors and armed police guards in schools.
O'Rourke has said that he supports universal background checks and banning "weapons of war" like the AR-15 that have "high-impact, high-velocity rounds" and are designed with the express purpose of killing as many people as possible, as effectively and efficiently as possible. O’Rourke supports background checks for all gun sales, closing the "gun show loophole", and ending concealed carry reciprocity.
The first televised debate between Cruz and O'Rourke took place on Sep 21, 2018. The full video is below:
Cruz vs. O'Rourke Opinion Polls
Texas is a red state and hasn't elected a Democratic senator in decades. So it is unsurprising that Ted Cruz has been consistently in the lead in opinion polls in the state.
Results of various opinion polls for the Texas senate race are summarized below. As a point of reference for comparison, we can look at the 2012 race when Cruz was first elected. In that race, voter turnout was 49.7%; Cruz got 56.6% of the popular vote and his Democratic rival (Paul Sadler) got 40.5% of the popular vote.
|Poll source|| Date(s)|
|Beto O'Rourke (D)||Ted Cruz (R)||Sample size||Margin of error|
|Public Policy Polling (D-Protect Our Care)||September 19–20, 2018||45%||48%||613||± 4.0%|
|Public Policy Polling (D-End Citizens United)||September 19–20, 2018||46%||49%||603||± 4.0%|
|Vox Populi Polling||September 16–18, 2018||50%||50%||508||± 4.4%|
|Quinnipiac University||September 11–17, 2018||45%||54%||807||± 4.1%|
|Reform Austin (D)||September 11–12, 2018||45%||49%||1,161||± 3.0%|
|Ipsos||September 6–14, 2018||47%||45%||992||± 4.0%|
|Crosswind Media & Public Relations||September 6–9, 2018||44%||47%||800||± 4.0%|
|Dixie Strategies||September 6–7, 2018||42%||46%||519||± 4.3%|
|Emerson College||August 22–25, 2018||37%||38%||550||± 4.4%|
|Marist College||August 12–16, 2018||45%||49%||759||± 3.8%|
|Public Policy Polling (D-End Citizens United)||August 1–2, 2018||42%||46%||797||± 3.5%|
|Quinnipiac University||July 26–31, 2018||43%||49%||1,118||± 3.5%|
|Texas Lyceum (likely voters)||July 9–26, 2018||39%||41%||441||± 4.7%|
|Texas Lyceum (registered voters)||July 9–26, 2018||34%||36%||806||± 3.5%|
|Gravis Marketing||July 3–7, 2018||42%||51%||602||± 4.0%|
|YouGov (likely voters)||June 19–22, 2018||40%||50%||821||± 3.6%|
|YouGov (registered voters)||June 19–22, 2018||36%||44%||1,025||± 3.6%|
|University of Texas/YouGov||June 8–17, 2018||36%||41%||1,200||± 2.8%|