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The verbal jabs flew fast Tuesday night in Texas during the U.S. Senate debate, with Democrat Paul Sadler calling his heavily favored, tea party-backed opponent Ted Cruz a “troll” and Cruz labeling Sadler an unapologetic liberal scheming to raise taxes. The pair bickered with such frequency that it was often hard to hear or understand either one of them. Trailing badly in the polls and in fundraising, Sadler came out swinging. In the first of two scheduled debates before next month’s election, Cruz and Sadler sat facing one another in a round-table format intended to encourage back-and-forth exchanges. But the two moderators repeatedly admonished Sadler to let Cruz finish his answers. The pair is vying to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but the race looks like a cake walk for Cruz. A poll released hours before the debate showed the Republican leading Sadler 50 percent to 24 percent among Texans surveyed — though it also showed that 26 percent of participants were undecided. A Democrat has not won statewide office in deeply conservative Texas since 1994.

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