I didn’t realize when I posted the O’Rourke clip the other night that Cruz had already responded to him days before. Since then, he’s kept on responding to him on his Twitter account, a clue as to what the internal polling is telling him about how O’Rourke’s support for kneeling during the anthem might be playing in Texas.

Both tweets are very Cruz-y, but the first especially. He’s always dined out (or tried to) on the idea that his opponents are avatars of cultural elements that are hostile to his constituents. He tried it on Trump in the 2016 primaries when he claimed that POTUS embodied “New York values” but that was a hard sell to voters who viewed Trump, rightly or not, as the truest populist of them all. Selling Texans on the idea that O’Rourke is an icon of celebrity liberals is much easier. It’s true, after all.

And O’Rourke is likely to inadvertently remind everyone of it at their upcoming debates. One reason lefties love him is that he’s running an unabashedly left-wing campaign in the heart of red America. At worst, he’ll lose while standing on principle, refusing to apologize for being a liberal. At best he’ll pull off an upset that “confirms” the secret belief of all partisans that their ideology can and will win anywhere on the map as long as it’s articulated effectively and enthusiastically. (Bold colors, not pale pastels, as a certain senator from Texas is prone to say.) Either way, he gives his side something to cheer. It may be that O’Rourke is playing the long game: Although he’s likely to lose this year, Texas’s demographic drift should make Democrats more competitive over time. And he’s only 45. His party will remember, or so he hopes.

Liberals will club Cruz for wrapping himself in the flag here and bashing O’Rourke for supposedly being dismissive of military sacrifice by implication, but any strategist, left or right, would say it’s political malpractice not to do so in a state like Texas. You want to test the theory that progressivism can win anywhere, says Cruz? Fine. Let’s test it. The debates will be fun.