In Fight for Hispanic Votes, Gringo Beto O’Rourke Dares Sen. Ted Cruz to Debate in Spanish

WASHINGTON -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has needled his Anglo Democratic challenger for a Hispanic-sounding nickname, has described his own Spanish language skills as “lousy.”That may explain why El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke is now challenging him to debate in Spanish -- twice.In recent letters to the incumbent’s campaign, as first reported by The Texas Tribune, O’Rourke’s campaign manager requested as many as six debates in all before Election Day.The Cruz campaign has not formally responded to the request, a spokesman for O'Rourke's Senate bid said Tuesday. A Cruz spokeswoman told The Dallas Morning News that the senator is “looking forward to debates” and “considering all possibilities in front of us... to determine the best platforms available so that Texans from all corners of the state can hear from the candidates directly about their views for Texas’ future.”A Spanish-language debate isn’t likely, however, given O’Rourke’s fluency and Cruz’s unease with the language. O’Rourke and Cruz are in a tussle for Hispanic voters’ support in Texas, and a Spanish-language debate would no doubt help build O’Rourke’s bonafides.The Republican, whose father immigrated from Cuba, has said that he grew up in a home that spoke “Spanglish” and he has previously resisted pressure to debate in Spanish.He deflected the idea during his 2012 Senate primary contest against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst -- a former CIA officer who also is fluent in the language.“Most Texans speak English,” Cruz said at the time, admitting his Spanish is "lousy." He also accused Dewhurst of wanting to “debate in a language where the vast majority of primary voters don’t understand it, because he doesn’t want voters to hear about his record."That same year, O’Rourke debated former El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes in Spanish during their Democratic primary, his campaign pointed out, eventually defeating the eight-term Democrat.Cruz did employ a few lines in Spanish during a 2016 presidential primary debate, when he accused Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of supporting amnesty for people in the country illegally during a Univision interview.That prompted Rubio, a fellow Cuban-American who is bilingual, to retort: “I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.”  Continue reading...

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