Tag Archives: Texas

Texas-Sized Upset in the Making?

Yesterday, we covered the races being decided in today’s run-off (Texas) and primary elections (Georgia) and mentioned that former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz has a legitimate chance of upsetting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Lone Star State’s US Senate Republican run-off. The release of the new Public Policy Polling data for Texas underscores that the trends are supporting an upset result. According to their survey (July 28-29; 665 Texas GOP likely run-off voters) Cruz has a 52-42 percent lead over the lieutenant governor. The Dewhurst campaign countered with their internal Baselice & Associates poll showing their candidate with a 48-44 percent lead, but these results appear out of line with the other publicly presented trends.

Perhaps most disconcerting for the Dewhurst camp, the PPP numbers report Cruz to be leading 63-33 percent among those who are most excited about voting in the run-off election. Additionally, the ex-solicitor general leads the veteran statewide office holder among those considering themselves as Tea Party voters by a huge 75-22 percent split. In a low turnout election where 70 percent identify themselves to be somewhat or very conservative, this type of spread could well be the defining factor.

Typically, Texas primary and run-off elections record very low turnouts. More than 1.4 million people voted in the May 29 primary election, but a considerable smaller number will vote in the secondary election. The likely turnout projection suggests a participation rate of less than one million voters.

Texas Run-off Tomorrow

Dewhurst | Cruz

Voters go to the polls in Texas tomorrow to choose US Senate as well as several congressional nominees. The big Senate battle is on the Republican side, where three-term Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fights to save his political credibility against former state solicitor general Ted Cruz. In the May 29 primary, Dewhurst placed first with 44.7 percent of the vote versus Cruz’s 34.1 percent.

The primary results place Dewhurst in a gray area as to whether he can develop a winning run-off coalition in a two-way race. Most often, a well-known candidate who fails to secure a majority of his own party’s vote in the primary election loses the subsequent run-off because the majority opposition only has one choice. Turnout and the candidate who has the most energized base tend to be the determining factors.

Internal polls released from both camps show their own candidate leading in the high single-digit range. The Cruz polling was conducted just among May 29 primary voters while the Dewhurst samples are from a likely voter model. The methodology difference lends more credence to the Cruz polls. The chances of seeing an upset win here are at least 50/50.

On the Democrat side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired educator Grady Yarbrough battle for a ticket to the general election. Realistically, the winner of the Dewhurst-Cruz contest easily defeats the Dem winner in November, so tomorrow’s GOP run-off is likely race-determining.

On the congressional level, run-off voters in several districts will effectively choose House members. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the 33rd Congressional District is one of four new seats awarded the state. A Democratic battle between Ft. Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state representative and Dallas City Councilman Domingo Garcia is peaking. The race has become a rivalry contest between the two Metroplex cities. With more of the Ft. Worth area included in the new 33rd and placing first with a 37-25 percent margin, Veasey is viewed to be the favorite tomorrow. The Democrat winner claims the seat in November.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the new 34th Congressional District is anchored in the city of Brownsville and travels along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Filemon Vela will likely win the Democratic nomination tomorrow against former congressional aide Denise Saenz Blanchard. Vela, an attorney, is the son of ex-federal judge Filemon B. Vela and former Brownsville mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela. His wife, a Republican, is a sitting district judge. Vela placed first in May with 40 percent of the vote against only 13 percent for Blanchard. The large spread suggests Vela is in strong run-off and general election position.

For the Republicans, in the district stretching from the southern tip of Tarrant County (Ft. Worth) into western Travis County (Austin), former Secretary of State Roger Williams, assuming that financial wherewithal is a determining factor, is poised to score a run-off victory against Tea Party activist and college professor Wes Riddle. Williams is projected to outspend Riddle by an 8:1 margin, but the latter should have a grassroots advantage. In a low turnout election, that could be significant but it is unlikely he can overcome Williams’ many advantages.

In the state’s fourth new district, the 36th CD to the north and east of Houston, first-place finisher Mark Takach, a financial advisor who placed just 350 votes ahead of former Rep. Steve Stockman in the primary, face each other tomorrow. The outcome here is difficult to predict. Takach is an unknown and Stockman served only one term back in 1995-97 in an adjoining area. The winner, however, becomes the prohibitive favorite for November.

In the open 14th District, the seat veteran congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, two strong Republicans, state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris, are fighting for the right to face ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in the general election. The district clearly favors Republicans, but Lampson represented the Beaumont-Galveston region for four terms until his defeat in the redistricted 2nd CD that took him out of his regional base.

From the expansive district that stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, another defeated congressman, Ciro Rodriguez, is attempting yet another comeback. He placed first in the May 29 Democrat primary and now faces state Rep. Pete Gallego in tomorrow’s run-off. The Democrat establishment is clearly behind Gallego, who most believe will be the stronger opponent to freshman Republican Rep. Quico Canseco, but the San Antonio base still appears to be a Rodriguez asset. The general election will be a toss-up in what is Texas’ only real marginal congressional district.

Countervailing Polls in Texas, Wisconsin

Earlier in the week we presented surveys from Texas and Wisconsin that showed underdog Republican Senatorial candidates Ted Cruz (Texas, vs. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst) and Eric Hovde (Wisconsin, vs. Tommy Thompson, Mark Neumann and Jeff Fitzgerald) surging to the lead in their respective campaigns. Yesterday, their main opponents, both considered heavy favorites when their efforts began, cited polls that produced a different result.

In Texas, Dewhurst, stung by the Cruz campaign’s Wilson Perkins Allen poll showing him trailing 40-49 percent, countered with his own Baselice & Associates data (July 5-8; 601 likely Texas GOP run-off voters) that posts him to a 50-42 percent lead. In comparison, the Cruz poll is likely the better of the two. Wilson Perkins Allen drew their sample from only those people who actually voted in the May 29 primary. Dewhurst’s survey is pulled from a larger universe and then screened for likely run-off participants. Though non-primary voters have the right to vote in a run-off election, it seldom happens. The overwhelming majority of people casting ballots in the July 31 election will be those who previously voted.

In Wisconsin, Marquette University Law School released a new survey (July 5-8; 1,000 Wisconsin adults, 949 registered voters), that puts former governor Thompson back into the lead. Yesterday, we covered a new Public Policy Polling study that showed businessman Eric Hovde holding a two-point advantage. According to Marquette, Thompson has a 35-23 percent lead over Hovde among the 427 people who identified themselves as planning to vote in the Aug. 14 Republican primary.

Like the PPP survey of yesterday, Marquette, too, shows Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) in very tight races with all four Republican candidates. Against Thompson, among likely voters (799), she trails 41-45 percent. When paired with Hovde, she leads 44-38 percent.

The Republican primary will be decided as a matter of turnout, but it is more plausible to believe that Thompson has the advantage. Both PPP and Marquette are in the same range for the general election, thus confirming all previous polls projecting that the two parties are in a close contest.

Cruz Leads Dewhurst in Texas

Photo: Ted Cruz for Senate

The Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research firm, polling for Texas Senate GOP candidate Ted Cruz, released the results of their first post-primary survey. The poll, conducted over June 24-26 of 750 previous Republican primary voters, shows an upset in the making.

According to WPA, Cruz has a substantial 49-40 percent lead over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP run-off election scheduled for July 31. Among those identifying themselves as being sympathetic with the Tea Party, some 50 percent of the sample, Cruz leads by a whopping 72-22 percent. Within the “very conservative” category, he is up 58-33 percent.

Dewhurst campaign sources, according to a Roll Call newspaper story, counter that their own polling shows the lieutenant governor holding a “comfortable” advantage in the run-off campaign. The Dewhurst operation is not releasing any numbers, however, and it is unlikely their sampling universe is as narrowly defined as the WPA cell group.

Run-offs in Texas are interesting. Turnout is always substantially lower than in the primary, usually averaging about a 50 percent drop-off, and normally the most conservative candidate wins. Both of these factors stack up well for Cruz. Additionally, the fact that the run-off is in the middle of the long, hot Texas summer, a schedule not previously seen, also likely benefits Cruz because most believe he has the more committed supporters who will vote no matter what conditions, elements, or obstacles lie before them.

Under Texas law, all party primary voters and anyone not voting in the previous primary election are eligible to vote in a run-off. The only voters not allowed to cast a ballot in a particular run-off election are those who participated in the other party’s primary. For example, any voter casting a Republican ballot in the May 29 election is ineligible to vote in the succeeding Democratic run-off, and vice-verse.

Texas has an extremely low primary turnout history and run-off participation factors are even worse. In the 2012 primary election, 1.349 million people voted in the Republican primary and 590,164 for the Democrats, meaning a total voter turnout rate of just 16.7 percent. The best available Republican run-off projection suggests that approximately 750,000 people, or 5 percent of all registered voters, will participate. Such a small voting universe in a large state means targeting and individual persuasion, rather than large electronic media buys, will be the key to winning on the last day of July.

Clearly the GOP nomination, which is tantamount to election in November, is up for grabs. Much will happen over the next three weeks to determine the final outcome but it has now become obvious that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, despite winning four statewide elections in his career, is no longer the prohibitive favorite to clinch this Senatorial race.

House Realignment Scorecard

The conventional wisdom during the past 18 months was that Democrats were going to make modest gains in the post-redistricting House, but such prognostications are changing. Considering the re-maps from a national perspective without regard to campaign competition factors, the Republicans are the ones who now appear to have the slight advantage.

The outlook is changing because none of the major Republican seat-risk situations appear to be producing multiple losses. Neither the New York, Florida, California, Virginia, nor Texas map is, on the surface, going to add large numbers of new Democratic House members solely because of plan configuration.

Since we now know where the new seats are going and where the lost districts are coming from, more complete analyses can be rendered. While the straight numbers suggest that Democrats must score a net gain of 25 districts to re-capture the House majority by a single seat, the adjusted post-redistricting number actually increases that figure to 29.

The basis for such a conclusion is in accounting for the 12 seats that have shifted states along with several obvious conversion districts. Other factors are equally as viable in projecting an overall House partisan balance figure, but how competitive various seats are in states like California and New York can be debated in another column. For now, looking at the placement and displacement of the new seats, along with what appear to be some obvious open-seat campaigns going decidedly toward either a Democratic or Republican nominee, lead us to a +4 Republican gain figure.

Let’s first look at the multiple-seat gain or loss states, which tend to be a wash in terms of partisan divide. In Texas, the biggest gainer, the new seats of TX-25, 33, 34, and 36 are headed for a 2R-2D split. In Florida, their two new districts, FL-9 and FL-22, look to be leaning Democratic (certainly so for FL-22), but the campaign evolving in the new 9th puts the outcome in question. Republicans have recruited a strong candidate in local county commissioner John Quinones, while the Democrats are again tapping controversial one-term ex-Rep. Alan Grayson who was defeated for re-election in 2010.

On the multiple-seat reduction side, both Ohio and New York also appear to be neutralizing themselves between the parties. Both sides look to lose one net seat in each state.

But it is among the single-seat gaining and losing states where the GOP has scored well. The Republicans look to be coming out on top in gainers like Georgia (GA-9), South Carolina (SC-7), and Utah (UT-2). Democrats will have a slight edge in Arizona’s new district (AZ-9), and are likely winners in Nevada (NV-4), and Washington (WA-10).

In the states losing congressional representation, while New York and Ohio don’t give either party a clear advantage, Democrats are forced to absorb the loss in Massachusetts (MA-10), New Jersey (NJ-13), Michigan (MI-15), Pennsylvania (PA-4), and Missouri (MO-3). Republicans take the hit in Illinois (IL-19) and Louisiana (LA-7).

The GOP looks to be headed for conversion victories in Arkansas (AR-4, Rep. Mike Ross retiring), Oklahoma (OK-2, Rep. Dan Boren retiring), and likely in Indiana (IN-2, Rep. Joe Donnelly running for Senate). They will also gain three to four seats in North Carolina, but those are neutralized by what appear to be similar gains for Democrats in Illinois. All totaled, before the campaigns hit their stretch drive, it is the GOP that now enjoys a slight post-redistricting advantage and makes a 2012 House majority change even more remote.