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In final sprint for Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz, Texas' direction at stake and Trump on their minds

In final sprint for Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz, Texas' direction at stake and Trump on their minds Don't miss a story. Like us o...

In final sprint for Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz, Texas' direction at stake and Trump on their minds

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Updated at 11 a.m. from Cruz event at Pearland church.

HOUSTON -- With the hours ticking down before polls open on Election Day, the rivals for Texas' coveted U.S. Senate seat made a final pitch to supporters, their fates resting to a large extent on the state's shifting demographics and political climate and sharply contrasting views of President Donald Trump.

Sen. Ted Cruz drew an anemic crowd of 175 to the First Baptist Church in Pearland, a Houston suburb, leaving the sanctuary mostly empty.

"We're one day away from Election Day," he told his supporters, continuing a daily countdown he employs in stump speeches to rev up voters.

At the House of Blues in downtown Houston, many more cheering Democrats gathered at 8 a.m. to see Rep. Beto O'Rourke make his final appearance in Cruz's hometown, two blocks from the Toyota Center, where Trump had rallied 16,000 Republicans for the embattled incumbent last month.

O'Rourke drew thousands on Sunday to a rally in East Austin.

Turnout, he said, has been "off the charts" in Houston and Harris County. "The cynics and the pundits and the pollsters and those that get paid to read the tea leaves on these elections [were saying], isn't Texas a red state? Can a guy from El Paso, Texas -- can he really win this?"

"You better believe it!" a man in the crowd shouted.

Texans haven't elected a Democrat statewide since 1994. But polls show O'Rourke battling to a statistical dead heat in the final days.

The record $70 million that poured into his campaign from fans in Texas and around the country has funded an advertising blitz and an army of door-knocking campaign workers. Black and white "Beto" signs have sprung up like wildflowers in the suburbs and corners of Texas where Democratic support has been invisible for a generation.

"If the whole country could vote, he absolutely would win," said Elizabeth Hanks, 37, a Houston attorney.

She'd brought 5-year-old Adline and 20-month-old Eloise to see O'Rourke. The older daughter starts first grade next year, and the threat of gun violence at schools weighs on mom, who was wearing a red "Moms Demand Action" T-shirt.

"Cruz's campaign is not about nuance. 'Legal good, illegal bad,' " she said.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, introduced O'Rourke at the House of Blues and said the outpouring shows that Texas has graduated from the caricature political terrain perceived by outsiders.

"We, too, are America," she told an ethnically diverse crowd of cheering supporters. "They just said not Texas. Not Texas.

"They didn't know who we were. They saw us in our boots and riding our horses and at the rodeo and loving country music and everything else and just said not Texas. Not Texas," she said. "I knew that the good people of Texas would rise up and find their moral compass, and you have done that."

Cruz had rallies set Monday in Pearland, Cypress and Atascocita -- all on the outskirts of Houston -- in a last-ditch effort to bolster conservative enthusiasm enough to stave off the O'Rourke surge. His final rally Monday night is at the Redneck Country Club in suburban Stafford, a go-to venue for his campaigns over the years.

The Democrat holds an afternoon rally in Dallas and a final rally at the University of Texas El Paso on Monday night.

At the House of Blues, Houston resident Brianna Mills, 39, wore a sweatshirt emblazoned on the back with the message "I REALLY CARE, DON'T U?" -- a reference to the jacket first lady Melania Trump wore to see the conditions faced in Texas by migrant children separated from their parents. The first lady's jacket said, "I really don't care, do you?"

"I'm disgusted with what Trump is doing," with migrants and on most every issue, Mills said. "The major issue for me is Donald Trump."

O'Rourke recalled a Dreamer, a young immigrant brought to the country illegally, who died trying to rescue fellow Texans during Hurricane Harvey, "which was pounding the crap out of this community, 58 inches of rain," he said. He called for a more welcoming immigration policy than deporting millions of young immigrants.

He also stressed a more rational approach to climate change, and the policy changes that should dictate to keep places like Houston habitable.

"Thank God for everyone willing to march for science, though you shouldn't have to," O'Rourke said.

Source: Google News | Netizen 24 United States

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