Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Rebounds

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sept. 20, 2018 — A new Quinnipiac University poll (Sept. 11-17; 807 likely Texas voters) finds that Sen. Ted Cruz (R), after languishing in a rather prolonged syndrome where he was only posting small single-digit leads over US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), has opened a much larger advantage in his campaign for re-election.

The latest Q-Poll finds Sen. Cruz now topping Rep. O’Rourke, 54-45 percent, his strongest advantage since two polls (Gravis Marketing and YouGov) put him nine and 10 points ahead in early July.

It remains to be seen whether this Quinnipiac poll proves to be an outlier. Up until this release, seven Texas statewide polls had been conducted since early July, all with a mean average of 3.4 percentage points separating Cruz and O’Rourke, but always in the senator’s favor.

This poll suggests that Texas is one of the most polarized states in the country. Both parties produce almost unanimous support for their individual nominee. Sen. Cruz, by a whopping margin of 94-6 percent, commands Republican support. By the same token, Rep. O’Rourke sees virtually the same split forming behind him among Democrats, 94-4 percent. The Independents are leaning toward O’Rourke, 51-47 percent, but the larger number of Lone Star State Republican voters catapults Cruz into a comfortable lead.

The polarization is also evidenced in the answer to the question about whether or not the respondent’s support is definite. For Cruz, 94 percent of his supporters say they will not change their mind before the vote. Just six percent say their current level of support for Sen. Cruz could change. Rep. O’Rourke does almost as well. By a majority of 92-8 percent, the O’Rourke voters say they are fully committed to their candidate.

The senator leads 57-42 percent among men, and now even brandishes a slight lead, 50-48 percent, among women. He gets 66 percent of the white vote, 45 percent among Hispanics, but loses African Americans, 97-3 percent. O’Rourke has the advantage among those aged 18-34 (57-41 percent), and within the 35-49 sample cell (51-49 percent).

But Cruz excels in the 50 and over groupings. From those aged 50-64, Sen. Cruz enjoys a 58-41 percent split, and sees a 55-42 percent ratio breaking his way among those 65 and older. With the latter two groups having the most consistent voter participation history, the weighting factor is forcing the political pendulum back toward Sen. Cruz.

Taking a look at the governor’s race helps to verify the validity of these numbers. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to win a landslide re-election over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (D). This Q-Poll supports such a premise and yields the governor a 58-39 percent advantage. Here, too, the polarization is strong but not so well defined as in the Senate race. For the governor’s campaign, nine percent of Gov. Abbott’s voters, and 12 percent of Valdez’s supporters say they could change their minds.

The job approval scores are interesting, too. Gov. Abbott enjoys wide support, 62:34 percent favorable to unfavorable. Sen. Cruz sports an improved 53:44 percent ratio. But President Trump, who ran behind where most Republicans finish in Texas, particularly in the metropolitan areas, scores only a 49:49 percent job approval index.

It remains to be seen whether this Q-Poll is detecting a trend for Sen. Cruz that will last until Election Day, or whether Rep. O’Rourke will regain momentum and again make a run at reverting the contest back toward toss-up status. But, for now at least, it appears the numbers are again favoring the first-term senator.

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