SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Democrat Beto O’Rourke abandoned his usual message of unity and optimism on Tuesday and laid into Ted Cruz, hoping to reverse polls that show him fading against the Republican incumbent during the second debate of a Texas Senate race that’s become one of the nation’s most closely watched.

During the opening moments, Cruz criticized O’Rourke for past votes supporting a never-enacted oil production tax that might have hit oil-rich Texas hard. O’Rourke responded by evoking a moniker Donald Trump bestowed on the senator when the pair were bitter rivals during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, saying, “Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He’s going to make up positions and votes that I’ve never held.”

“It’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted,” O’Rourke said “and its why the nickname stuck because it’s true.”

A former Ivy League debate champion, Cruz shot back, “It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack.”

Click here to read the full story by Associated Press reporter Will Weissert.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, left, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, take part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in San Antonio. (Photo: Tom Reel / AP)