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 appears to show President Trump under-performing against potential Democratic opponents in one of the most important red states in the country:

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.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    No wonder Gov Abbott was so hot to purge the voter rolls with a fraudulent list of ‘non-citizens’ registered to vote.

  2. Kylopod says:

    Back in Oct. 2016 there was a poll showing Trump seemingly neck-and-neck with Clinton in Texas–but with 16% undecided. When the poll was reported here, I wrote:

    I hate to throw cold water on this poll, but I suspect the undecided group is comprised primarily of Republicans who are unhappy with their party’s nominee, and if so, then it’s probable (though far from certain) that they’ll break for Trump in the end.

    Actually, it’s this factor that has worried me the most for several months–that a lot of the undecideds in the polls consist of Republican-leaning voters who are reluctant to support Trump but who probably will in the end.

    This may be the Theory of Trump I’ve held for the longest, and I’ve beaten it to the ground here over the past several years: Because Trump is so obviously and blatantly repugnant, this ironically puts him in a stronger position than the polls suggest, because there are a sizable number of Republican-leaning voters who can’t stand the man but are still likely to vote for him in the end. That’s one of the reasons why I think his currently low approval ratings may not matter as much as they seem. If he’s at, say, 42%, he only needs a few percentage points of the “Yes, Trump is awful, but…” bloc to put him over the top (with turnout in just the right places), just as they did last time.

    Is it possible the Dems could win Texas in 2020? Sure it’s possible. (Beto on the ticket might marginally increase the chances, but I’m skeptical and I don’t think the effect will be huge, ala LBJ in 1960. Remember, John Kerry putting an actual incumbent Senator from NC on the ticket didn’t stop him from losing the state by 12 points, and Beto is neither an incumbent nor statewide.) But if it happens, it’ll almost certainly be in the context of an overall landslide in which Dems have already won decisively in other states. So it would be a “cherry on top” state, like Indiana in 2008.

  3. Kathy says:


    That’s a good point to keep in mind. Near the election it seemed like Clinton could also take Arizona and Georgia, for instance.

    Tribalism means you’ll take a terrible person from your tribe over a not-so-terrible person from another tribe. One ought not lose sight of that.

  4. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Although Clinton failed to win AZ, and in hindsight it was certainly a mistake for her to spend more time in the state than in the Midwest, the unusual narrowness of her defeat compared with previous Democrats (3.5 points) suggests it was not totally quixotic. Of all the Sun Belt states that Obama never won, it has the greatest potential to flip to the Dems in 2020–especially after Sinema’s win. Texas is a harder shell to crack, considering that Clinton lost it by 9 points (still narrower than any Democrat in a long time), and Beto wasn’t quite able to defeat Cruz in 2018. But it seems to be undergoing the same demographic shifts that are putting AZ in play, and that have already helped move states like NM, CO, and NV (all won by Bush in 2004) into the Democratic column.

  5. Kathy says:


    No one has unlimited funds, or time, or skill, to optimally campaign effectively everywhere, to keep what one, or one’s party, has and to add to that total. So choices must be made.

    IMO, Clinton had two big problems. One was that Republicans who didn’t care for Trump disliked her more than they did Dennison. She was like the GOP’s boogeyman, whom they loved to hate.

    The second I call the self-defeating prophecy. So many people, on both sides, were so convinced she’d win, that it either depressed her turnout in crucial states, and/or allowed people who intensely disliked her to vote Trump as a form of protest, not expecting their vote to be of any consequence.

  6. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Texans can tell.

    Hey, if there was ever a guy that fit the “All hat, no cattle” description, it’s Trump.