DALLAS -- Tuesday night is the first showdown between U.S. Senate candidates Democrat Paul Sadler and Republican Ted Cruz.
For Sadler, the underdog Democrat not widely known in the state, it could be his best chance to catch a break.
As Sadler drives from town to town to see voters, he's short on funds but long on determination. And he says that personal drive extends to the first debate with Cruz.
"You know, he's been picking on somebody that — by his own admission — is not a good debater," Sadler said. "I've done it for years... let's go."
Sadler refers to the pre-primary and runoff debates where Cruz faced fellow Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz and Dewhurst spent millions on radio and TV ads and got debate coverage.
Cruz, now the frontrunner, will have money for ads again, so the two debates with Sadler are less critical to his campaign.
"I'm looking forward to having a direct and clear contrast between two very different visions for our state and for our nation," Cruz said.
Sadler, a former state legislator who is an attorney, has less money, so Tuesday's Belo Debate is huge as a chance to contrast his bi-partisan problem-solver outlook with Cruz's tea party conservatism.
Sadler said Cruz — a star debater at Princeton who went to Harvard Law School — doesn't scare him.
"I'm a Baylor University, Baylor Law School graduate... and Baylor Law School has won more trials against Harvard in competition than anyone else," the Democrat said.
But the seemingly unflappable Cruz said he'll remain steady facing Sadler. "Between now and the November election to continually making the case that that our country has a choice to make," the Republican said.
Voters get to see the Senate candidates side-by-side to help make that choice Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The Belo Debate is being televised live on KVUE in Austin, with KVUE.com streaming the debate live online.
C-SPAN 1 will carry the Belo Debate nationally.