Jack Fink | @CBS11Jack

DALLAS, Texas (CBS 11 NEWS) – With a 10 to 12 point lead in the polls, analysts say the race to be the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas is Republican Dan Patrick’s to lose.

That’s why the one and only debate is so crucial for Democrat Leticia Van de Putte.

SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says, “In this case, Dan Patrick wins by not losing, wins by not making a bad mistake. On the other end, Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate has to do something to call Patrick into question to get voters to re-think.”

Neither candidate can afford to make a big mistake.

If they do, it will likely go viral, and could do lasting damage.

During their campaigns, Van de Putte and Patrick have butted heads over illegal immigration.

Border security is Patrick’s number one priority.

But Van de Putte accuses him of making inflammatory statements about those who came to the U.S. illegally.

Jillson says if Van de Putte wants to win the debate, she’ll need to call Patrick out on it. “He is sometimes more incendiary. He can sometimes be a little hard-edged. He has stayed out of the lime light. This is the one chance Senator Van de Putte has to get Senator Patrick on the record, get under his skin, and see if he doesn’t boil over.”

Jillson says that won’t be easy.

He believes Patrick will try to widen his appeal. “He’s going to want to appear a little more moderate than he did in the primary without losing his Tea Party cache.”

Another key difference between the candidates to watch for in the debate is spending on public schools.

Van de Putte supports using the rainy day fund to make up for billions of dollars in cuts three years ago.

Patrick does not.

WATCH: Lt. Governor debate online at CBSDFW.COM at 7:00pm 

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