Ted Cruz Not Looking So Vulnerable After All

A new poll indicates that Texas Senator Ted Cruz isn't as vulnerable as previously thought, and reminds us that Texas is still a very red state.

Just over a month ago, there was some speculation that Senator Ted Cruz might be vulnerable to the candidate that Democrats have nominated to run against him. However, a new poll makes it clear that this may not be the case at all:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) leads his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, by 11 points in a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Fifty percent of Texas voters that responded to the poll back Cruz, while only 39 percent say they support O’Rourke in the Texas Senate race.

It is a dramatic shift from Quinnipiac’s April 18 survey, which found the race too close to call with Cruz at 47 percent and O’Rourke at 44 percent, within the margin of error.

According to Quinnipiac, Cruz got a big boost in support from men. Cruz currently leads O’Rourke, 57 percent to 35 percent, among men. On April 18, he led O’Rourke 51-40.

Cruz’s improved figures can also be partly attributed to a “nationwide Republican mini-move,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Poll.

“President Donald Trump’s Texas numbers also have climbed during those six weeks moving from a nine-point deficit on job approval to an even split today. It is hard not to see a pro-Cruz effect there,” Brown added.

O’Rourke’s lead among independents also shrunk from 51 percent in April to 43 percent in the latest poll.

O’Rourke’s edge among Hispanic voters has disappeared, with Cruz now leading 46 to 44 among that demographic, which is within the poll’s margin of error. In April, O’Rourke led Cruz 51 to 33 among Hispanic voters.

Given the fact that this is a significantly significant jump within the same poll that only six weeks ago was showing the race between Cruz and O’Rourke to be within the margin of error, it’s possible that we are looking at an outlier poll. At the same time, though, there are a number of factors that have changed in the race that seems to suggest that this number is probably close to being right. A poll taken by JMC Analytics in between this poll and the one taken in mid-April, for example, showed Cruz leading O’Rourke by seven points. Additionally, it appears as though there’s been a significant shift in President Trump’s job approval among Texans. The previous Quinnipiac poll has shown that 43% of Texas voters approve of the President’s job performance while 52% disapprove. Now, the President is at a point where equal numbers of Texas voters approve and disapprove of his job performance, reflecting a slight uptick we’ve seen in those numbers nationwide. While this isn’t exactly ideal for a Republican candidate considering the fact that Trump won the Lone Star State by more than 800,000 votes and nine percentage points in November 2016, it’s certainly better than where things stood in April and could be one of the reasons why Cruz’s numbers have improved so much.

As I said when looking at this race last month, it appears that Cruz is not nearly as vulnerable as Democrats would like to make him out to be. The primary reason for that is the fact that Texas remains a deeply red state on the statewide level. Republicans control all of the statewide offices from Governor all the way down to positions such as George P. Bush, who currently serves as the (elected) Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. Additionally, no Democrat has won the state in a Presidential election since Jimmy Carter won the state by just over 100,000 votes in 1976. On the Senate side,  Ted Cruz’s seat has been in Republican hands since Kay Bailey Hutchinson won the seat to succeed Lloyd Bentsen in 1993 and John Cornyn’s seat has been in Republican hands since John Tower won a Special Election to succeed Lyndon Johnson in 1961. (Source) Additionally, the state has had a succession of Republican Governors since George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards in 1994 and Republican Lt. Governors since Rick Perry was elected to that position in 1998. While there has been much talk about the state turning “purple” at some point due to the influx of Latino voters and other transplants, there is no evidence that this is likely to happen this year, or at any point in the foreseeable future.

It’s also worth keeping in mind one other thing:

At the top of the list there’s Cruz himself, who is as much a controversial figure and a magnet for criticism in Texas itself as he is nationwide. Because of this, it’s not surprising that he’s finding the opening stages of this bid for re-election to be a bit bumpier than they might be for an ordinary Republican. Second, it’s typically the case that Senators face their most difficult re-election bids in their effort to obtain a second term than they do in subsequent elections. This is generally true regardless of what state or candidate you’re talking about. Finally, 2018 is likely to be a year in which Democrats nationwide are energized even in deeply red states like Texas. That means that a Democratic candidate will likely do better than expected even if they don’t win. This poll number is interesting and indicates that the race bears being watched. In the end, though, I suspect that Cruz will be re-elected easily although perhaps not by the large margins we ordinarily see from Republicans in Texas.

This new poll only serves to reinforce that conclusion. In the end, Cruz is likely to be re-elected. Absent significant changes in polling, Democrats would be well-advised not to invest to many resources in this race and instead concentrate on states they can possibly flip and states they need to defend in November.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    To me the real problem is that Robert O’Rourke is the wrong guy to beat Cruz. A better candidate(Someone with a moderate background, with a Hispanic background, that could attack Cruz for cozening up with a guy that mocked his wife) could beat Cruz, O’Rourke can’t.

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  2. James Pearce says:

    Democrats would be well-advised not to invest to many resources in this race and instead concentrate on states they can possibly flip and states they need to defend in November.

    Nah, Texas, as the 2nd largest state in the union, has 28 million people living within its borders. 3 of the largest US cities are in Texas. Yes, Texas is a red state, but I don’t see why millions of Democratic voters just have to accept GOP hegemony because “winning elections is hard.”

    Dems should be investing more resources into this race. Maybe they don’t beat Cruz this time, but build a foundation for the future. Texas is too important to just write it off on the loss sheet.

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  3. Dave R says:

    First off, Jimmy Carter won Texas by just over 100k votes in 1976, also as the dems move far left Hispanic voters will move to the right.

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  4. Kathy says:

    Malcolm Gladwell began the third season of his podcast, Revisionist History, with the suggestion that Texas be broken up into five states, saying this would benefit Democrats greatly. His argument as to how this is eminently possible is a shaggy dog story (sorry Malcolm, but it is) regarding the importance of a semicolon in the Constitution and the terms under which Texas joined the Union.

    I just want to get it out fo the way, because it would be very, very hard to make it happen. And Gladwell would find his masterful analysis of the situation would convince mostly people who already favor such a thing.

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  5. @James Pearce:

    The point is that rather than investing large amounts of money trying to flip Texas, Democrats would be better advised to concentrate on Republican states where they have a chance of winning, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee and on defending Democratic candidates in red states that are particularly vulnerable such as Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, and Bill Nelson.

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  6. @Kathy:

    Breaking Texas up in this matter would require the consent of the Texas Legislature and the consent of Congress. That is highly unlikely.

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  7. @Dave R:

    You are correct about Carter, I’ve edited the post to fix that error.

    As for the rest, Latino voters are not going to vote Republican as long as that party becomes more and more xenophobic and anti-immigrant as it has under Trump.

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  8. al Ameda says:

    @Dave R:

    also as the dems move far left Hispanic voters will move to the right.

    “far left”? What’s ‘far left’ these days?
    Free trade? Financial Regulations? Protecting Federal Lands?
    Support for Environmental Clean Air and Clean Water Laws?

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The point is that rather than investing large amounts of money trying to flip Texas, Democrats would be better advised to concentrate on Republican states where they have a chance of winning

    It’s just amazing, isn’t it, that Pearce’s recommendations are what a moderately clever Trump supporter would endorse?

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    Cruz has always puzzled me. Not the man himself. He’s a nasty braggart who thinks he’s better than everyone else, with a penchant for thinking he is much cleverer and sneaky in his back stabbing ways than he is. No, it’s the fact that he’s a Texas Senator. He hardly represents the type of person I would have expected to elect. Whatever faults I find with Texas and Texans, they tend to be gregarious and project an image as straight shooters. What did they ever seen in this clown?

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  11. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Democrats would be better advised to concentrate on Republican states where they have a chance of winning, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee and on defending Democratic candidates in red states that are particularly vulnerable such as Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, and Bill Nelson.

    I’m not so sure. If I were advising the Dems –and hopefully we can all agree I’m not (right?)– I’d say “Electing ‘good Republicans’ is preferable to electing bad Democrats.”

    That’s a philosophical difference I have with my fellow liberals, which prefers “betrayal” from Manchin/Heitkamp types over collaboration from McCain/Flake types.

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  12. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce:

    Electing ‘good Republicans’ is preferable to electing bad Democrats.

    No. No, it’s not. Given the power that the Majority Leader and Speaker have in bringing votes to the floor, killing nominations, awarding committee seats, etc, it is glaringly obvious that winning the majority with the help of a few half hearted Dems is much, much better than losing it but having a few Repubs who will occasionally sound reasonable before inevitably caving.

    I’d go so far as to say that if the attitude you propose was to generally take hold in the Demoratic electorate it’s primary result would be to promote the toxic Republican agenda.

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  13. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As for the rest, Latino voters are not going to vote Republican as long as that party becomes more and more xenophobic and anti-immigrant as it has under Trump.

    Indeed. And given that, this is implausible:

    O’Rourke’s edge among Hispanic voters has disappeared, with Cruz now leading 46 to 44 among that demographic, which is within the poll’s margin of error.

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  14. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: The letter “R” next to his name. For about 33% of the population, that’s all that seems necessary.

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  15. just nutha says:

    @James Pearce: Where are these “good” republicans gonna come from? McCain and Flake (how ironic is THAT?) only found their “good”ness since they’ve come to the realization that they’re no longer able to run/get elected by GOP voters. Got anybody else?

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  16. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Given the power that the Majority Leader and Speaker have in bringing votes to the floor, killing nominations, awarding committee seats, etc, it is glaringly obvious that winning the majority with the help of a few half hearted Dems is much, much better than losing it but having a few Repubs who will occasionally sound reasonable before inevitably caving.

    All due respect to the Senate Leader and House Speaker….but political power doesn’t come from parties holding seats. It comes from people.

    Do you really think a couple of half-hearted Dems –accountable only to a few hundred thousand voters in low-population states– would be preferable to a broader power base that incorporates and serves more people?

    I’m not that interested in getting a narrow little majority that thinks they can do whatever they want because they’re the majority, and yet they can’t do a damn thing because they’re a tiny little majority and the system is geared toward cooperative consensus rather than tribal dominance.

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  17. James Pearce says:

    @just nutha:

    Where are these “good” republicans gonna come from?

    We’re going to have to make them.

    You know that idea that the majority can do whatever they want without regard to the minority? The Republicans share it.

    Texas is the best place to show Republicans that, hey, you may have a tiny little majority that could blow away in a stiff wind, but you can’t govern like half the country doesn’t exist. You will have to compromise.

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  18. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce:

    Do you really think a couple of half-hearted Dems –accountable only to a few hundred thousand voters in low-population states– would be preferable to a broader power base that incorporates and serves more people?

    Yes

    Here’s a sports anaology to your question: “Would you rather win the NBA playoff game 112-108 with 3 or 4 baskets scored by cheap fakes that deked out the opponent, or lose it honorably by driving straight up the middle every play and let the best man win?”

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  19. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Here’s a sports anaology to your question

    Here’s one, too: Would you rather be the Nuggets, a small regional team that scares no one and never makes the playoffs, or the Spurs, a perennial contender that must be reckoned with if you want to make it to the Finals?

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: Actually, I don’t know squat about professional basketball other than there are some tall guys that get together now and again.

    But your question is meaningless. Your question is essentially “Wouldn’t I rather be on a different team that doesn’t actually exist?” But the game is played with two real “teams”. The game is also closely matched and we are down significantly. The question is “How can I win with the players I have?”

    And no, politics is not sports, and so the analogy breaks down. But the simple reality is that electing a few Republicans because they may feel bad about selling out the American people (rather than doing so with the delight so prevalent in their party ) is not worth giving control of the Congress to that horrible, corrupt party. Those few “good” Repubs are not even going to follow through and buck their leadership. Whereas someone like Joe Manchin will still vote for a Democrat as Majority Leader. And that is real power, and a real chance to affect change.

    So to go back to your original question, the answer is “Yes”. It is better to have Joe Manchin than some hand wringing Republican that ensures Mitch McConnell keeps the gavel. It’s not even close.

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  21. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan:

    “Wouldn’t I rather be on a different team that doesn’t actually exist?”

    I would definitely rather be on a different team that doesn’t actually exist. (But totally could, with some diligence and a little vision.)

    I don’t think we can win with the players we have. I not sure that “Democrats taking a majority in Congress” should be considered a win. That’s a means to an end, not an end in itself.

    Making the Republicans a less horrible, less corrupt party would be a win, wouldn’t it?

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce:

    Making the Republicans a less horrible, less corrupt party would be a win, wouldn’t it?

    If that’s the windmill you want to tilt at, go ahead. Although you seem to spend all your time here talking about the Democrats. As for me I think they are beyond hope for the foreseeable future and think the most important thing is to remove them from power as quickly as possible.

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  23. James Pearce says:

    @MarkedMan: “The most important thing is to remove them from power” thinking is how the GOP got Trump. And then they find out there are more important things, like tariffs on our trading partners and pardons for obscure kooks.

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  24. An Interested Party says:

    Making the Republicans a less horrible, less corrupt party would be a win, wouldn’t it?

    With people like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz, how exactly does that happen…

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  25. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not defending the idea, because it’s not just unlikely but almost impossible.

    Gladwell shows a partition of Texas, along his favored lines, would benefit Democrats. So no GOP dominated legislature would agree to it. If Democrats took control of Texas, then the partition would benefit the GOP, and therefore they also would oppose it. Lastly, Texans strike me as inordinately proud of their state; so it’s doubtful they’d favor it.

    But Gladwell also claims Congress already has assented, as the terms Congress approved when Texas joined the US include the right to partition the state. Of course, should Texas somehow vote to partition itself, I very much doubt Congress would just let them do it based on what a long-dead earlier Congress agreed to.

    It’s fun to speculate, but it’s nothing other than mere speculation.

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  26. TM01 says:

    No no no no.
    The blue wave is real!
    Invest lots of money Texas, Democrats!

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  27. James Pearce says:

    With people like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz, how exactly does that happen…

    Same answer as all the other times I’ve been asked: Liberals have to stop being so horrible.

    And yeah, when I put it like that, I understand the natural response will be, “But we’re not horrible. I just support racial equality and economic justice.” Yeah, okay… Go tell some Trump voter, who never collaborated with Russian spies or paid hush money to porn stars, that they’re horrible and they’ll have the same reaction. “But I’m not horrible. I just support low taxes and a strong military.”

    Fine. You’re all horrible. Both sides live to torment and annoy the other side. They love nothing more: not their children, not their community, not their country, not their future. The most important thing, as MarkedMan pointed out, is that the other guy loses.

    That’s not the most important thing….not by a long shot.

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @TM01: Laugh it up. Texas is purpling, and that trend is only going to continue the more urban it gets.

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  29. Grewgills says:

    James Pearce, the one and only way to make the Republicans less horrible is to make them pay for being horrible. The only way to make them pay for being horrible is to take away their power. The only way to take away their power is to take away their majorities.
    Your prescriptions are for a fantasy world. Replace every Manchin with a McCain and you know what you get? A larger Republican majority that steers the country in an even more regressive spiral, the loss of civil rights for minorities and women and even more regressive taxes. That is what your elect McCain and Flake instead of Manchin argument wins us.
    On the bright side I now understand why you rarely put forward what your ideas actually are. They are pipe dreams. On the bright side for you, when you next argue with Reynolds you can let him know that you are a prolific fantasy writer too.

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  30. James Pearce says:

    @Grewgills:

    The only way to make them pay for being horrible is to take away their power.

    I fundamentally disagree with this and let me see if I can explain why.

    Throughout human history, some people have thought they have reason to believe a certain group of other people were “horrible” and then felt they were justified in “taking away their power.” This has been identified, time and time again, as a source of injustice in almost every scenario it’s been tried.

    Is this not the engine that drove colonization? Was this not the beating heart of Jim Crow? The Nazis certainly believe the Jews were “horrible” but I guess if they just stopped at “taking away their power” they wouldn’t be history’s biggest villains, right? “Gay rights” are a thing because certain people thought gay people were so “horrible” they didn’t deserve rights. You know what I mean, right?

    I’m a liberal because I believe people should be empowered, not marginalized. I’m a liberal because I believe that people should express what they feel and who they are, not what society says they should feel or who they should be. I’m prepared to tolerate empowered racists and empowered Christians and empowered lesbians, because as a liberal, I believe that “individual empowerment” is the best route to getting the just and prosperous society I crave.

    What you’re asking for is for the powerful to lord over the powerless, in perpetuity, with no justice and no peace. You may not see it that way, and I can understand why*, but trust me, if you think it’s just to make half the country “pay,” then it’s just for them to make you pay too. I don’t think you really believe that.

    * Racism is evil, and stupid to boot, but I’m not going to abandon my entire philosophical outlook to fight it. It’s my best weapon against it.

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  31. Grewgills says:

    @James Pearce:
    The ‘they’ in my comment is republicans in or running for office. As long as the Republicans in and running for office behave as they have been they need their power removed. Anything less rewards the virulent behavior and empowers it to continue. That behavior has to come with the consequence of losing power or it metasticizes.
    The people who are actually labeling people other and taking away power are the ones instituting measures to disenfranchise people they think will vote against them. People want to vote against them, because among other things, they try and make it more difficult for them to vote and easier to discriminate against them. You choose to interpret Democratic efforts to punish bad political actions at the polls as equivalent to efforts at disenfranchisement. It is ridiculous. Stop it. No one is buying this schtick. No one. No commenter, no lurker, no one.
    I am not saying, as you chose to interpret, that all of middle America, or white men, or whatever need to be robbed of power. They certainly haven’t been, regardless of what some of them like to whine. The people representing many of them need to lose their jobs. Hopefully it will be because people that voted for them realize the error of voting for malevolent hucksters. If not, it needs to happen anyway for the sake of our nation and its institutions.
    This nonsense about asking the powerful (Democrats or liberals) to lord over the powerless (middle Americans, white men, whatever) bit is more of your fantasy writing.
    As for your method of fighting racism: it is the same method of relatively comfortable white folk not wanting to rock the boat that has held back so much. You don’t need to see the MLK quote talking explicitly about people like you again. If you actually think racism is evil and stupid, be prepared to be uncomfortable to fight against it. If you bridle at a little discomfort to fight it, either you don’t really think it’s evil, or you are fine with that particular evil continuing.

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  32. James Pearce says:

    @Grewgills:

    As long as the Republicans in and running for office behave as they have been they need their power removed.

    You want to remove them from office? Win an election. It’s as simple as that. Win a damn election.

    That’s been a struggle for Democrats and no, it’s not because of GOP “voter suppression” efforts or dirty tricks or any of the crap in the self-serving narrative that allows them to continue thinking they’re being victimized by “deplorables.”

    It’s because, for the past 20 years, when they’re not working to fulfill the political ambitions of Bill Clinton’s wife, they’re repurposing old Republican policies (Romneycare) and not fighting for supreme court vacancies. (And please…no excuses about Mitch McConnell and the horrible Republicans on the SC. They literally had to do nothing to thwart the Garland nomination.)

    If you bridle at a little discomfort to fight it, either you don’t really think it’s evil, or you are fine with that particular evil continuing.

    Look, if I believed that reinforcing tribal identifies can cure racism, I would join you. But I don’t think that.

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  33. Grewgills says:

    @James Pearce:

    and not fighting for supreme court vacancies. (And please…no excuses about Mitch McConnell and the horrible Republicans on the SC. They literally had to do nothing to thwart the Garland nomination.)

    Serious question, how would the Democrats have successfully fought for and won Garland’s nomination?
    You say they should have, but absent the Senate majority and absent the vaguest notion of respect for norms on the part of those with the majority, how do they win that fight?

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  34. James Pearce says:

    @Grewgills:

    Serious question, how would the Democrats have successfully fought for and won Garland’s nomination?

    If I had been in Congress, and I was not, I would have argued, hey, you know that thing where we shrug and just run out the clock because we think Hillary Clinton is a sure-bet to win the election….let’s not do that. I would have told all the old hands, many of them serving in congress for decades, to get on the phone. Call their friends on the other side of the aisle. If they have markers, call them in. I would have told Hillary to talk about it, to talk about it way more than she did about deplorables or glass ceilings.

    “At least he’ll nominate judges I like,” all the Never Trumpers said as they filled in the box next to his name.

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