By Jane Ross
Beto O'Rourke, the charismatic, Democratic first-term U.S. congressman who is challenging Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in the traditionally deep red state of Texas, summed up his campaign simply: "It's extraordinary."
Speaking to Reuters before addressing a packed rally at the University of Texas in Austin last week, O'Rourke said: "We have not seen it before, maybe in part because we haven't seen a campaign like this before.
"No PAC money, no special interests, going to every single one of the 254 counties, no matter how reliably Republican, no matter how reliably Democrat," he said.
O'Rourke fired up the crowd with promises to tackle rising education and healthcare costs and protect women's access to abortion.
The Texas Senate race is considered a pivotal one in the Nov. 6 elections. Democrats need to gain two seats to win control of the Senate from Republicans.
Across the state, in the Dallas suburb of Plano, Cruz, speaking to supporters in a sunny restaurant beer garden, highlighted his differences with O'Rourke.
"There is no race in the country with a starker divide than this U.S. Senate race here in the state of Texas," Cruz told a cheering crowd, heavy with red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps, a trademark of Trump's presidential campaign, and a smattering of cowboy hats. "On taxes, he's for them, I'm against them," he said.
(Reporting by Jane Ross in Austin and Plano, Texas; Editing by Leslie Adler)