Cruz isn’t completely out of the media-generated woods just yet, as his re-election race against El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke is still more competitive than it should be, but today’s poll has him with a reasonably comfortable 54-45 lead. Only one percent are undecided, which indicates the battle lines have firmed up about where they could be expected to stand on Election Night.
“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a news release. “These numbers may calm that talk.”
It’s the first time Quinnipiac has released a likely voter survey in the Senate race. Quinnipiac previously polled registered voters three times, finding Cruz ahead by 6 points in August, 11 in May and 3 in April.
Quinnipiac also surveyed the governor’s race in the most recent poll and continued to find a much less competitive contest, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez by 19 points.
In the Senate race, Quinnipiac found Cruz has a higher favorability rating than O’Rourke does. Fifty-two percent of likely voters said they like Cruz to 43 percent who said they do not, while the split was a more divided 43-42 for O’Rourke.
Quinnipiac also asked likely voters about President Donald Trump — and they were evenly split, with 49 percent approving of the job he is doing and 49 percent disapproving. Trump is set to visit the state next month to rally for Cruz.
Cruz has had some problems in this race, most of which aren’t of his making. O’Rourke’s media coverage has painted him as a JFK-style Boy Wonder, a portrayal which is stunningly inaccurate given his criminal history and rather brazen pattern of corruption as a city councilman in El Paso, not to mention his shameless, Rachel Dolezal-style attempts to paint himself as Hispanic. That coverage has elevated an otherwise hopeless candidate to the status of rising star within the Democrat party and it’s served to fill the coffers of what ought to be a hopeless campaign.
Furthermore, problems within the Texas GOP have contributed to Cruz’ soft showing so far. The party is not unified as it was under Rick Perry’s direction as governor, and factionalism has kicked in to cause problems in various races around the state. In Cruz’ case there was the high-profile break from the Bush clan, as former president George W. Bush left him off a list of Republican senatorial candidates he would be helping to raise money for.
Politico first reported that Bush held a closed-door event Wednesday morning in Fort Worth for Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, and will host a similar gathering next week in Dallas for Rep. Pete Sessions, the Republican who serves as Bush’s congressman.
The former president will also headline fundraisers in the coming days and weeks for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for Senate in that state; North Dakota Senate candidate Kevin Cramer; Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley; and Indiana Senate candidate Mike Braun.
“While he prefers to consider himself retired from politics, President Bush recognizes how important it is to keep the Senate and decided to help a few key candidates,” Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told Politico.
Noticeably absent from the list is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who is facing a surprisingly robust challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.
Cruz once worked for the former commander in chief, both on Bush’s presidential campaign and then in his administration. The senator also met his wife, Heidi, while working for Bush’s campaign, leading him to say that he “will always be grateful” to the former president.
But Bush hasn’t reciprocated many warm feelings for Cruz, who made his name by rebelling against the GOP establishment that Bush represents.
Bush reportedly dissed Cruz at a private fundraising event in late 2015 by saying, “I just don’t like the guy.” Bush and his wife, Laura, also haven’t given to Cruz’s campaigns, despite supporting other Republicans since leaving the White House, according to campaign finance records.
Ford, the Bush spokesman, on Wednesday said there are currently no plans to host a fundraising event for Cruz, adding that he’s not aware of the senator having requested such assistance.
The Quinnipiac poll results, particularly if they’re duplicated in other surveys, will do a lot to smooth over the Bush snub – both sides can say Cramer, Hawley and Braun need the former president’s help a lot more than Cruz does, so it’s fine if Cruz isn’t a priority. Perhaps a feud can thus be avoided; with the multitudes of new arrivals to the Lone Star State, many from places where the politics aren’t quite as conservative, the Texas GOP can’t allow itself to be torn apart by internecine warfare.
But at the end of the day the Cruz-O’Rourke race, while uncomfortably close, isn’t likely to produce a Democrat gain. If Cruz wins a 53-47 or 54-46 race, he’s still a U.S. Senator for six more years – with the knowledge that he bled the Texas Democrat Party absolutely dry along the way.