Tight Texas Poll

A new Texas US Senate survey finds two-term incumbent Ted Cruz (R) headed toward a competitive general election, but the Texas political climate and issue matrix as we move toward November will probably yield a different result.

Emerson College just released the results of their latest Lone Star State survey (1/13-15; 1,315 TX registered voters; interactive voice response system & online). The ballot test found Sen. Cruz leading US Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) by only a 42-40% margin, and holding a one-point, 41-40%, split over state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio). Simultaneously, former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden 49-41%, suggesting Sen. Cruz is underperforming for a Republican candidate.

The poll is not particularly surprising in that Sen. Cruz’s personal favorability numbers have never been particularly good. The presidential election turnout model, Trump beating Biden in the state, the Biden energy policies being detrimental to Texas, and the southern border controversy, however, all play politically in the Senator’s favor.

The polling segmentation tells a typical story when a Democrat is pitted against a Republican, but the partisan breaks appear extreme in this instance. While Hispanics typically favor Democrats, the division here is greater than we typically see. Within this cell, the respondents break for Rep. Allred over Sen. Cruz by a 50-26% margin. Young voters are way more inclined to back Allred, 41-25% for those under 30, and 41-30% for those between 30 and 39. Women also break solidly for Allred, 43-36%.

But, the polling also shows that the groups typically favoring Republicans also break to the extreme for Sen. Cruz. White voters favor Cruz by a 55-32% margin, beyond the usual partisan split we see within this demographic segment. Sen. Cruz also enjoys stronger support among older voters, with age segments in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, all moving toward the incumbent from between 9 and 13 percentage points. Men, as well, are heavily in favor of Sen. Cruz, breaking 50-37% in his favor.

Rep. Allred has already been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the 2024 election cycle. In his last quarterly financial disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Rep. Allred had raised $13.5 million through the September 30th reporting deadline. Before the reports are due on January 31st, Mr. Allred has already announced that he raised an additional $4.8 million in the 4th Quarter of 2023 and has $10 million remaining in his bank account.

Rep. Allred’s problem is he will likely have to spend virtually all of his treasury just to win the Democratic nomination. With 12 candidates on the ballot, four of whom have a political base, it is probable that we will see no candidate receiving majority support on February 5th, meaning the top two finishers, of which Rep. Allred is likely to be one, will advance to a runoff election on May 28th.

The Emerson poll also tested the Democratic primary (460 self-identified Democratic voters). Rep. Allred is favored, but with only a support figure of 29 percent. Sen. Gutierrez is a distant second with 7%, while former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, at 6% preference, follows closely. A total of 37% of the Democratic respondents purport to be undecided.

Rep. Allred’s problem is that Sen. Gutierrez has a political base in San Antonio and Mr. Gonzalez enjoys similar support in the Corpus Christi area. Another candidate who did not show particularly well on this poll but will likely garner at least a sliver of the vote, and right from Rep. Allred’s Dallas County base, is state Representative and pastor Carl Sherman. He will begin to appear in polling once the campaign matures.

Therefore, with three Democratic opponents all taking votes from different geographic segments, the combined vote factor will likely be enough to keep Mr. Allred from winning the March 5th Super Tuesday Democratic primary outright. Therefore, the vast majority of early money raised will be spent securing the party nomination instead of against Sen. Cruz.

The incumbent’s political ace in the hole is likely the energy issue and the Biden Administration’s stated desire to move the country away from oil and natural gas. This issue is primarily responsible for Republicans performing better among the large number of Hispanics who live and work in the energy producing area of the state. Eventually, a larger share of this segment will likely move toward supporting Sen. Cruz as the campaign matures.

Therefore, it is likely that we will see many close Texas Senate polls between now and the November election. The state’s voter history and favorable issue matrix, however, will ultimately favor Sen. Cruz and allow him to win re-election with a relatively comfortable margin.

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