This is probably the most O’Rourke-friendly of the polls in the Texas Senate race, and for it to show a three-point move in Cruz’ direction gives you an indication of how the race is moving whether you believe it’s actually a 49-44 spread or not.
Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz leads U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, by 5 percentage points among likely voters in a new Ipsos online poll released Wednesday in conjunction with Reuters and the University of Virginia. A September Ipsos poll showed O’Rourke ahead of Cruz by 2 percentage points among likely voters.
According to the newly released poll, 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for Cruz, while 44 percent said they would vote for O’Rourke; 3 percent said they would vote for someone other than O’Rourke or Cruz, and 1 percent said they wouldn’t vote.
The online poll of about 2,000 Texans over the age of 18 was conducted Oct. 12-18. Ipsos online polls do not have margins of error; instead, the poll’s precision is measured using a “credibility interval.” This poll’s credibility interval was +/-3.1 percentage points among likely voters.
Other polls of the race show Cruz in a good bit better position than Ipsos does. A CNN poll taken from Oct. 9-13 had Cruz ahead 52-45, New York Times/Siena had him ahead 51-43 in a poll taken from Oct. 8-11, and a Quinnipiac poll taken from Oct. 3-9 had Cruz ahead 54-45.
After that round of polling it appears the national pollsters abandoned the race other than this latest from Ipsos. Republican operatives on the ground say the race is likely 10 points or more now, as O’Rourke’s people are beginning to recognize their candidate can’t win and enthusiasm will inevitably wane.
Which brings up an interesting question likely to be debated in Texas after the midterms – namely, was the O’Rourke campaign a disaster for the Democrats rather than the great boon to the party it was sold as? Certainly O’Rourke was able to raise more money than any Democrat in Texas in memory – his $60 million campaign haul is a record, as it happens. But O’Rourke’s fundraising came largely at the expense of down-ballot candidates who probably had better chances to win, and those candidates have been begging him for help to no avail.
Harold Cook, a Democrat consultant in Austin, explained why those down-ballot Dems ought to be thankful for O’Rourke…
“If you have one Democrat that’s doing well, that’s going to help down-ballot races,” Cook said. “I can tell you that some Democrat in Texas is going to win a House seat who would not have won if Beto were not doing well at the top of the ballot. Beto is going to do whatever he can do to break up a straight-ticket Republican vote, and do a pretty good job increasing turnout.”
Well, OK…but what happens when O’Rourke’s campaign fades back into obscurity in the last two weeks of the race and the infrequent voters who got excited about him give up in the face of sure defeat?
If they’re only interested in the elections because they want to vote for Beto, and Beto’s cause becomes hopeless, and they don’t show up to vote, Texas Democrats could have a major problem. Because O’Rourke collected all that money and he’s following a strategy of trying to turn out vote which doesn’t usually show up at the polls.
That’s a political balloon. If it pops, it takes the whole party with it.
Some of the congressional races in Texas the Democrats thought they’d win aren’t particularly going their way. For example, the most endangered Republican congressman in Texas was supposed to be Will Hurd, whose district stretches from El Paso to San Antonio along the Mexican border. But New York Times/Siena had Hurd ahead of Democrat challenger Gina Ortiz Jones by 15 points earlier this month, and in a special election for the state Senate in a district covering a lot of the same geography as Hurd’s district Pete Flores knocked out Democrat Pete Gallegos, who used to hold Hurd’s seat, by a comfortable margin earlier this fall.
Two other House seats, Pete Sessions’ in suburban Dallas and John Culberson’s in suburban Houston, are reported to be closer – but the Democrats’ hopes have been riding on a big turnout coming from the O’Rourke campaign at the top of the ballot. If O’Rourke underperforms and loses by 55-45 or more, Sessions and Culberson are going to be re-elected. Bank on that.
Donald Trump won Texas over Hillary Clinton 52-43 in 2016. For O’Rourke to carry any down-ballot Democrats to victory he’s probably going to have to come within 52-48 of Cruz. Right now that doesn’t look likely – and if he doesn’t, he’ll be the most expensive failure in the history of U.S. Senate elections.