Trump Underperforming In Texas
A new poll of Texas voters shows President Trump doing worse than expected against potential Democratic challengers. Should Republicans be worried?
A new poll out Wednesday spells danger for President Donald Trump’s reelection chances in one of the unlikeliest of places: Texas.
The Quinnipiac University poll shows that Joe Biden would top Trump by four points — 48 percent to 44 percent — in a general election matchup there, an outcome the ruby red state hasn’t seen in four decades.
But even while Biden is the only Democratic presidential candidate to beat Trump in a head-to-head matchup in Texas, the poll signals trouble for the president there in that it found five other candidates within the poll’s margin of error, including home-state politicians Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro.
Perhaps surprisingly, the next strongest candidate in the state was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who the poll found losing to the president by only 1 point, 46 percent to 45 percent. Next was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose rising star landed him within 2 points of Trump in a head-to-head matchup.
But among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, the poll found that Biden continues to hold a commanding lead in the primary field, with 30 percent of voters backing Biden, followed by 16 percent for O’Rourke, 15 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 11 percent for Warren.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Castro were far behind with 4 percent each, followed by Buttigieg with 3 percent. No other Democrat topped 2 percent in the poll.
But as the president continues to struggle in the Rust Belt states that handed him the White House in 2016 — in part due to Biden’s popularity with working-class voters — his campaign has begun to seek out alternate paths to a second term, including plans to compete in blue states like New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire.
O’Rourke has previously caught flak for his insistence than Texas and its 38 Electoral College votes could be in play in next year’s election, but
Biden’s strong performance in the GOP stronghold will bolster his argument that he is the most electable 2020 Democrat.
Though O’Rourke, who has faltered in more recent national and early state polling, jumps up to second place in the Texas poll, Democratic voters there would much rather see him ditch his White House bid to challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn, by a nearly 2-1 margin.
While it is far too early in the campaign to give this poll and prescience, the fact that the President is either trailing or barely leading a number of Democrats is surprising to say the least. Texas last gave its Electoral Votes to a Democrat in the 1976 Presidential Election when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford by nearly four percentage points. Since then, Republicans have won the state in every election as the state became more and more red in its Congressional delegation, its state legislature, and its various statewide officers. Most recently, John McCain won the state by nearly 900,000 votes in a year that was mostly bad for Republicans. Four years later, Mitt Romney won the state by more than 1.2 million votes over President Obama. Finally, in 2016 President Trump won the state by some 800,000 votes over Hillary Clinton. In between these votes, Republicans have continued to solidify their control of Texas government notwithstanding predictions that the influx of new citizens from the north and the rising number of Latino voters would make the state more competitive politically.
In addition to this polling, of course, some pundits will point to the outcome of the 2018 Senate race between former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Senator Ted Cruz. For a time, it seemed as though O’Rourke might actually beat Cruz, something that caused Democrats across the country to pour money into his campaign and which is, frankly, the main reason that he is now running for President. In the end, though, Cruz pulled off a narrow victory, beating O’Rourke by roughly 220,000 votes in the same year that the Republican Governor beat his own Democratic challenger by roughly 1.1 million votes. This polling would seem to indicate that the President could face a similar challenge to Cruz in the Lone Star State next year.
In the end, I suspect that Trump will end up winning Texas next year. There will be reports, of course, of polls that suggest otherwise but, in the end, the electorate of the Lone Star State still leans heavily Republican, as the results of last year’s races for Governor, Lt, Governor, other statewide offices, and even the closer-than-expected race between Cruz and O’Rourke, demonstrate quite aptly. At some point, though, it is likely that Texas will become more competitive, and this will be the point at which Republicans will really need to start worrying because losing Texas and its Electoral Votes would be fatal to any Republican candidate.