Cruz fends off rising star Beto O’Rourke in Texas Senate race

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participates in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz fended off rising-star Democrat Beto O’Rourke to win re-election in a much-watched Texas race that began as a cakewalk but needed a visit from President Donald Trump to help push the incumbent over the top.

Cruz finished a surprising second in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and began the Senate race as a prohibitive favorite.

But O’Rourke visited fiercely conservative parts of the state that his party had long since given up on, while shattering fundraising records despite shunning donations from outside political groups and pollster advice.

Cruz argued that his opponent’s support for gun control and universal health care were too liberal for Texas.

Trump and Cruz were bitter 2016 rivals, but the president visited Houston late last month to solidify the senator’s win.