O'Rourke on calling Cruz 'Lyin' Ted': 'That wasn't the best phrase for me to use'

Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE (D-Texas) on Sunday backed down after calling his Republican opponent Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE “Lyin’ Ted” during a debate last week, saying he doesn’t think that was “the best phrase for me to use.” 

O’Rourke during the debate said President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s 2016 nickname for Cruz “stuck” because it’s “true.” 

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“Sen. Cruz isn’t going to be honest,” O’Rourke said during the CNN town hall. “He’s dishonest. That’s why [Trump’s] nickname [‘Lyin’ Ted’] stuck — because it’s true.”

The Texas representative in recent days has expressed some regrets over the name-calling, saying he “took a step too far” in the “heat of the moment.” 

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“That wasn’t the best phrase for me to use, but, you know, I’m going to do my best to stay focused on the future,” O’Rourke said during a pre-recorded interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. 

O’Rourke during the interview also declined to respond to Trump’s attacks on his character, saying he does not want to contribute to “bitterness, name-calling [and] partisanship.” 

Trump last week called O’Rourke a “flake” and a “lightweight.”

“I don’t know that it makes any sense to respond,” O’Rourke told ABC News’s Paula Faris during the interview.

“The bitterness, name-calling, partisanship … you can add more to it or you can stay focused on the future and why you did this in the first place,” he said. 

O’Rourke’s campaign has gained national attention, with individual donations pouring in from Democrats all over the country, and the candidate raised an eye-popping $38 million in the last quarter. 

Recent polls have Cruz leading O’Rourke by between 5 and 9 points. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report in September changed the race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.” 

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