Ted Cruz hits the panic button

What’s really going on in the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke in Texas? That’s difficult to figure out at the moment, as the polls are all over the place. Some polls have O’Rourke having pulled ahead by a small margin, which is remarkable considering that he’s a Democrat in Texas. Most polls show Cruz still ahead. But the clearest sign of what’s happening in this race may have just come from Cruz himself.

CNN has decided to hold a “town hall” event in a few key Senate races, including the one in Texas. The network invited Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz to participate, but Cruz has decided to hide from the cameras instead. So local newspaper Fort Worth Star-Telegram now says that CNN will simply have O’Rourke spend the entire event answering questions. But what is Cruz really doing here?

Best I can tell, Ted Cruz has decided that his mere presence at this event could only possibly end up boosting Beto O’Rourke. There may be some logic to this. If both candidates are there, then it’s a big event, and lots of people tune in, including undecided voters who want to see a spectacle. But if Cruz stays home, then it’s really just a de facto O’Rourke campaign event. And while his fans will tune in to cheer him on, the undecideds might decide to watch football instead.

I’m not saying that’s how it’s going to play out. It just feels like that’s how Ted Cruz is betting it’s going to turn out. If that’s the case, then it means that momentum in this race is now so decidedly in Beto O’Rourke’s favor, Cruz believes his best shot is to prevent a large audience from being exposed to O’Rourke’s message. We don’t know how this race will turn out. But for those who want Beto to win, this is a sign that it’s more important than ever to get out there and help amplify his message during this home stretch.