By Jim Ellis
May 2, 2019 — The Lone Star State continues to move toward competitiveness, meaning the Texas political apparatus will see new approaches from both parties in the 2020 election campaigns.
A new Emerson College poll (April 25-28; 779 likely Texas voters, 342 likely Democratic primary voters, 344 likely Republican primary voters via Interactive Voice Response system) finds President Trump tied with two of the Democratic presidential candidates and only slightly ahead of the rest of the field. And, in Democratic Party trial heats, the results project an equally close potential finish for the state’s 228 first ballot delegates.
According to the Emerson numbers, President Trump would slightly trail former Vice President Joe Biden with each man finishing in the 50 percent realm. Trump is then slightly ahead of Texas former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) but, here too, both men are in the 50 percent realm.
The president fares better against the others, but even they are within striking distance of him in what is arguably his most important state. With 38 Electoral Votes, Texas was the only big state that Republicans could count upon winning without having to campaign, but apparently those days are over.
The next closest Democrat is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He trails by two points, 51-49 percent. The president has healthier margins against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ahead of both, 54-46 percent, and tops Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 53-47 percent. The fact that all scenarios present no undecideds tells us the pollsters prodded respondents for a definitive answer or are extrapolating some of the results.
But the Emerson early Democratic numbers are inconclusive, too. Here, Biden is posted to just a 23-22 percent lead over O’Rourke, with Sanders receiving 17 percent, while Buttigieg and Warren trail at eight percent and seven percent, respectively. Home state politician Julian Castro, the former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor, posts four percent — just ahead of New York City entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Sen. Harris (both with three percent), which is a particularly disappointing performance for the latter contender since she is much more competitive nationally.
We must keep in mind, however, that the sample size for the Democratic primary voter segment is very low (342 respondents), which makes the error factor high. What we can deduce, however, is that here in Texas, as elsewhere in the country, the Democratic nomination battle is a dogfight and will go through many twists and turns before the people start voting in primaries and caucuses early next year.
On the Republican side, Emerson tested President Trump against former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in a nomination match-up. In Texas, among the 344 likely Republican primary voters sampled, the President would crush Weld, 87-13 percent, when a choice was extrapolated for each respondent.
Emerson also ran a quick test of the impending US Senate race possibly between incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R) and retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar (D). Here, the results greatly depart from the presidential results.
In the national race, respondents were prodded to make a choice, or one was extrapolated. Hence, all of the presidential pairings showed no undecided number and each aggregate result came to 100 percent.
In the Texas Senate race, however, the exact opposite was allowed to occur. Only 56 percent of respondents made a definitive choice. This is particularly unusual since the contest features a three-term incumbent, Sen. Cornyn, who has actually won five statewide races (three for US Senate; one for state attorney general; one for state Supreme Court) since 1990. The fact that such a candidate would only score 29 percent support is curious.
In contrast, Hegar only posts 12 percent, with 16 percent saying they would prefer a different individual. Though the latter candidate is unknown throughout most of the state, the fact that she would carry the Democratic label against Sen. Cornyn should result in a greater support percentage than what was reported.
In contrast to the presidential preference totals, which were unusually high, these Senate numbers are seriously low to the point of considering them virtually meaningless.