The wave – in Texas – may not be so blue. Senator Ted Cruz R-TX now has a 10 point lead in the race for U.S. Senate over his Democrat challenger, Congressman Beto O’Rourke D-El Paso. That is according to the latest CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies Texas Poll released Tuesday – one week before Election Day. The poll also finds Texas Governor Greg Abbott has opened a commanding lead over his challenger for that office, former Dallas County Sheriff and Democrat Lupe Valdez.
“Well it looks like things have really turned around for Ted Cruz in Texas,” said Brian Graham, Managing Partner of Dixie Strategies. “To be a Democrat and win in Texas, you have to be a certain kind of Democrat… almost a conservative Democrat… Mr. O’Rourke is not necessarily that conservative.”
If the election for Senator were held today, 52% of likely voters in Texas said they would vote for incumbent Cruz while 42% said they would vote for O’Rourke. Just one month ago in the same poll the race could have been considered a dead heat. That spread was down to just 4% – within the margin of error – with Cruz at 46% and O’Rourke still at 42%. It would appear that many of the voters who were undecided back in September are now leaning towards Cruz.
Graham said that recent events like the contentious confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh and the Central American migrant caravan moving through Mexico towards the United States’ southern border may have contributed to Cruz’s rise in the polls. “Those issues could have consolidated the Republican base — and conservatives — around people like Cruz.”
The poll showed something else which strengthens our hypothesis – that is, Greg Abbott now has a 59-33 lead over Lupe Valdez in the governor’s race. That isn’t down-ballot from the Senate race, per se, but in the sense that Valdez is an underfunded and less-well-known Democrat whose campaign has been hoping for some tag-along votes coming from the O’Rourke turnout operation she’s a pretty good stand-in for a lot of their congressional and legislative candidates.
One might well expect that the effects of the O’Rourke slide might be uneven across Texas. If so, there might be some pockets in which the Democrats might be able to ride some of this national Blue Wave they’ve been talking up. That isn’t likely to result in any major victories in the Lone Star State, though.
As we’ve noted, O’Rourke has siphoned up practically every dime of Democrat money that would be spent in Texas this year, and many of the down-ballot candidates have gone begging as a result. O’Rourke’s value proposition to those Democrats has been that he would build a turnout machine so vast, that would haul in so many new and infrequent voters, that he would make them competitive even without money.
This works if O’Rourke is actually competitive with Cruz and makes the Senate race a cliffhanger. But if it’s a 52-42 race like the Dixie Strategies poll says it is, and all of those new and infrequent voters O’Rourke has been courting know that, then his turnout model is going to collapse – because it’s all built on Beto, and if the new recruits see him as a lost cause, they won’t show up to vote for any of those down-ballot Democrats either.
We’ll find out Tuesday night, but it’s a pretty good bet at this point that the Blue Texas crowd will be the only one with the blues next week.