Yuck. That was one ugly debate between Cruz and Sadler. There was no winner, and the loser was the audience watching on TV. Moderator Brad Watson spent most of the debate trying to stop Cruz and Sadler from speaking at the same time, without much success. Sadler was unrestrained. He called Cruz a liar, repeatedly. Cruz demanded that Sadler quit talking while Cruz was trying to answer a question.

The first question went to Sadler. “This is an open seat. Why isn’t the Democratic party behind you? What was Sadler supposed to say? That there is no Democratic party in  Texas, maybe? What he actually said was, “Republicans and independents will support me because I have a bi-partisan record.” That’s not going to win many votes in this state.

The first question to Cruz was, “You criticized David Dewhurst for not going to forums; now you’re the one who doesn’t want to debate. Why are you holding back? Why not have another debate?”

I think this kind of question is a waste of time. The public wants to hear about the issues, not about the process.

Cruz to Sadler: “You’re working to get free media. Why won’t you face me now? You can launch an attack any time.”

The next question was about the 47%. In Texas, 38.5% of the population pays no income tax. 24% get Social Security. 14% get food stamps. Do you support government benefits? Cruz gave what I would consider a tea-party response: “Part of the philosophy of Barack Obama is to get as many people as possible to be dependent upon government. Most Americans don’t want to be dependent on government.” Sadler fired back, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” It’s not that crazy. Most historians would agree that it comes straight out of the Roosevelt/New Deal playbook.

The next couple of questions were about the economy, starting with “removing the barriers” for small business. “They aren’t looking for a handout,” Cruz said. Sadler said, “We need to get control of our national debt.” Then, to Cruz, “You have spent all of your life in government. You have a selective memory about where we are in this country.”

The next issue was redistribution of wealth. It featured a  video of a much younger Obama saying, “I believe in redistribution.” Both candidates were asked if they agreed with redistribution. “Of course Obama agrees in redistribution,” Cruz said. “We’re galloping down the road of Greece and Italy.” Sadler said, “We doubled our national debt under George W. Bush.”

Cruz was then asked, do you support Barack Obama as commander-in-chief? “I wish he were a stronger commander-in-chief,” Cruz said. “It might have saved our ambassador from assassination.”

The next question, for Sadler, was about the Bush tax cuts. “Do you support letting them expire?” This was one of the more lucid discussions. Sadler said, “If we let the tax cuts expire, it would cut our national debt in half.” Cruz said, “I don’t think we should raise taxes.” Sadler said, “The centerpiece of our problem is the national debt.” He proposed balancing the  budget, cutting spending, and raising revenue.

The debate on foreign affairs issues was one of the liveliest exchanges of the evening, the best part of the debate. The question was, “U.S taxpayers are sending foreign aid to Egypt. Should we be doing that?” Sadler said, “We need to stay involved or Russia and China will do it.” Cruz said he would use foreign aid as leverage to protect our national interests, but not military aid. Sadler said, “Either we support these countries or they join the other side.” Cruz said Obama should met with Netanyahu instead of “snubbing” him by appearing on “Letterman” and “The View.” I agree with Cruz on this one.

Health care was the next topic. A graphic showed the benefits Texans were receiving from the Affordable Care Act.  Cruz was asked if he supported taking away the benefits of Obamacare. Cruz said, as he often had during the campaign, “The first bill I intend to introduce is the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety.” Sadler pointed out that if the Democrats retain the majority in the Senate, there is no chance that Obamacare could be repealed. Cruz’s health care initiative calls for allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines.

“The worst legislative strategy is just to give away our leverage,” Sadler said. “Why should we give away screening for seniors, contraceptive coverage for women? It’s not good for Texas or the country. Don’t give away our benefits.” Cruz responded with a talking point: “Everything government gives us it first takes away from us.”

A brief flap broke out over Harry Reid. “The most irresponsible majority leader,” Cruz said. The next question was a difficult one for Cruz. Sadler actually asked the question: “You won’t vote for John Cornyn [for Republican whip], all your money comes from Jim DeMint–how can you not vote for Cornyn?” The best Cruz could do in response was, “Cornyn is supporting me.” Sadler kept on the pressure. “Why won’t you answer?” Cruz said, “It’s presumptuous to commit to a leadership vote.” That’s not much of an endorsement for Cornyn. (DeMint is in line to become chairman of Commerce, but it is thought that he might make a run at Whip if he can get the votes.)

The last topic was immigration. First, the numbers: 11.5M in U.S. illegally, 1.65 million in Texas. Do you support a path to citizenship? Sadler: “There should be some pathway to citizenship. Our border is a great economic engine. We can’t stick our heads in the sand, we need to secure the border. We should have passed the Dream Act and a guest worker program, so workers would pay taxes. There should be a pathway to citizenship.”

Cruz said he did not want a path to citizenship, but favored a staged approach starting with securing the border. “We should celebrate legal immigrants.” He also favors establishing an e-verify program. A testy exchange ensued when Sadler said, “You have the worst policy for our border of anyone who has represented this state. You even disagreed with your wife.” Cruz did not care for the personal remark and accused Sadler of attacking his wife.

Cruz got the last word, saying that the race was a clear choice between an Obama Democrat and a free market conservative.

Now it’s on to Wednesday and the real debate. The presidential race begins in earnest tomorrow.