Oct 20, 2018, 5:56 PM ET

Texas Senate showdown: Cruz and O'Rourke talk presidential ambitions, border politics

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In the midst of a fiery and critical U.S. Senate race in Texas, Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his opponent Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke each sat down with ABC News’ Paula Faris ahead of the November midterm election, opening up about presidential ambitions, the politics of immigration and President Donald Trump.

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Cruz, who just two years ago was running against Trump for president, deflected questions about his 2016 campaign trail battles with Trump in his interview with Faris. At different times during that campaign, Cruz called Trump "utterly amoral," "a serial philanderer" and a "pathological liar."

Nor was he inclined to respond to Trump's campaign trail attacks on him.

“Look, I have no interest in revisiting the comments of 2016,” he said -- calling the campaign "bare-knuckle" with "hard shots on all sides."

During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Trump attempted to link the father of the Texas senator, Pastor Rafael Cruz, to Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

PHOTO: ABC News’ Paula Faris sits down with Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke to discuss the midterm elections and other topics.ABC News
ABC News’ Paula Faris sits down with Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke to discuss the midterm elections and other topics.

Faris, who asked Cruz if he would consider Trump a friend or a foe, stopped short of answering the question.

“He's the president," said Cruz. "I work with the president in delivering on our promises.”

'A country to save'

When Faris asked the elder Cruz if he had moved past the president’s insults, he suggested that it was not the time to be dwelling on the past.

“We have a country to save," he said. "We have a state to save. And we need to put away our petty differences and stand shoulder to shoulder.”

PHOTO: Sen. Ted Cruz speaks to supporters inside Schobels Restaurant in Columbus, Texas, Sept. 15, 2018.Sergio Flores/Reuters
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks to supporters inside Schobels' Restaurant in Columbus, Texas, Sept. 15, 2018.

If you've got 4,000 people trying to cross illegally at one point, of course we should have the law enforcement resources to stop that. That's simple, common sense.

Trump -- who has endorsed Cruz’s campaign -- is scheduled to arrive into Houston for the senator’s Monday rally. Cruz, in turn, said he would campaign for the president during his 2020 re-election bid.

When Faris asked if the senator would say unequivocally that he would serve his entire second term, Cruz said “absolutely.”

Cruz has wavered on this point in the past.

PHOTO: Rep. Beto ORourke gives a speech to supporters at an event in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 22, 2018.Sergio Flores/Reuters
Rep. Beto O'Rourke gives a speech to supporters at an event in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 22, 2018.

If things are so desperate -- in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador -- that someone would risk their lives to come here, then what can we do to improve conditions there?

With the 2020 presidential race drawing nearer, there was at least one thing opponents O’Rourke and Cruz could agree on.

O'Rourke told Faris that he does not intend to run for president, partly in deference to his family.

“We can't be out on the road for another two years. Nor would I want [to]. Nor do I think that's right,” he said, in reference to his wife and two young kids.

“We've seen the consequence of a junior senator who leaves the state to pursue the presidency -- leaves our priorities. our opportunities, our needs -- behind," O'Rourke said, in a veiled reference to the unsuccessful presidential campaign that Cruz -- Texas's junior senator -- ran in 2016.

"I want to make sure that I'm there -- every single day, for every single one of us.”

PHOTO: Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with about ABC News Paula Faris about the midterm elections and other topics.ABC News
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with about ABC News' Paula Faris about the midterm elections and other topics.

With immigration taking center stage in Texas politics and a caravan of asylum seekers heading for the southern U.S. border with Mexico, Cruz believes law enforcement should intervene.

“If you've got 4,000 people trying to cross illegally at one point, of course we should have the law enforcement resources to stop that," Cruz said. "That's simple, common sense.”

O’Rourke disagrees.

“If things are so desperate -- in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador -- that someone would risk their lives to come here, then what can we do to improve conditions there?”

Early voting in Texas begins on Monday.

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CComments

  • David T

    Beto is a millionaire's son from El Paso, He is a follower, not a leader - he toes the Democratic party line. I live in Texas, and I will vote for Cruz.

  • Smedley D Butler

    Beto O'Rourke has a received the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle: Not exactly a Liberal bastion. Cruz failed to get the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, which calls him a "bomb thrower."

  • Teritao

    Republicans gave huuuuge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. As a result, they drove up the debt, bigtime. As in the past, Trump and his cronies will get in, take the money and run. All while McConnell talks about taking away Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They gave themselves huge welfare benefits in the name of tax cuts, but for those of us who dutifully have paid taxes and paid into Social Security, they are willing to rip the rug out from under us. Wake up and see the bamboozlers for what they are, THIEVES. Good place to begin, Vote FOR Beto bright and early tomorrow morning when the polls open. Then, pray that the Russians haven't tampered with our votes yet again!

  • Truthfully

    The constituents of Cruz have suffered greatly under his watch. They complain about everything yet won't take a chance on someone who actually care.

    Beto O'Rourke is out there talking to you asking what you care about...………………….Where was Cruz ALL these YEARS??

    Take a chance at a BETTER OUTCOME!

  • TexasVulcan

    Early voting starts Monday here in Texas. I will be there.

  • thenitenurse

    The Canadian born Rafael Edward Cruz has always had his eye on the presidency from day one. He really doesn't care about Texas. He knows if he doesn't win his re-election bid he will never be president. At least O'Rourke wants to help the people of Texas and he seems to truly want to do a good job. Let's at least give him a chance.

  • ctla567

    Cruz say cut taxes but what he didn't say is US is already deep deep in debt. What he and other republicans has to come up with is a working idea of how to pay back the debt. They dream or lie about how cutting taxes could activate the economy and generate more revenue for the government. That dream hasn't come true since the first day the dream was dreamt instead US debt increases with every single tax cut. Can the republicans learn something from facts right in front of their eyes or at least stop lying?

  • Davis

    Finally somebody talking about improving conditions in the host countries. In the end it’s the only thing that will curb illegal immigration. And if the effort is successful it creates other advantages including increased trade and cooperation.

  • lou g

    Cruz for president? Tee, hee, hee, etc, etc.

  • Ctrygrl

    If something happens with the president Cruz will absolutely be out there again in two years. He has never had any interest in being a senator from TX. O'Rourke had the sensible thing to say on this so called immigrant "caravan" we have to help things be better in their home country. O'Rourke will be so much better as a senator for TX and the country. Come on TX vote out Lyin' Ted