Republican presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are neck-and-neck in the race for Texas voters, a new WFAA Texas TEGNA poll found, although more North Texans give the edge to the New York businessman and former reality TV star.
Cruz and Trump were knotted at 32 percent statewide, while Marco Rubio lagged with 17 percent, according to a new poll conducted for Star-Telegram media partner WFAA-TV. In North Texas, likely voters answering the survey favored Trump over Cruz by 34 percent to 28 percent.
Other recent polls have shown Cruz with a 1- to 15-point lead over Trump, and anything less than a strong win in the senator’s home state could be devastating to his campaign, analysts agree.
In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton holds an almost 2-to-1 advantage, leading Bernie Sanders 61-32 percent, the telephone poll of likely voters found.
“Ted Cruz is supposed to win Texas,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “If Donald Trump can beat him, or come close to beating him in Texas, it will be a win for him.
“Trump has so much momentum that is driving him now, media, name recognition,” he said. “It’s political adrenaline.”
Texas, long considered a jewel among Super Tuesday states because of its large number of delegates, may now be more important than ever for presidential candidates on both sides of the political aisle.
In a year when voters are turning to anti-establishment candidates, many wonder if Texas will be the firewall Cruz and Rubio need to slow Trump’s presidential bid, which appears to gain steam nearly every day. The question grows more important after Trump this week claimed his third straight victory, this time in Nevada.
Observers also wonder if Texas can provide the bulwark Clinton needs to fend off Sanders’ contagious grassroots campaign.
“Hillary Clinton has always been strong in Texas,” Saxe said. “She’s got a big operation here. She has a very strong foothold here, especially among large African- American and Hispanic populations.
“She won the the popular vote even against Barack Obama in 2008, even though he took more delegates.”
These latest results come just days before Texans head to the polls on Tuesday.
The race is tied overall, but the poll found that Cruz has advantages among several segments of Texans, particularly Hispanic voters, evangelicals and Tea Party members. Trump leads among moderates and nonevangelicals.
Texas voters, long expected to support Ted Cruz in the GOP race, seem to be following a national sentiment.
Trump is also ahead with Republican primary voters who have the least education, 38 percent to Cruz’s 29 percent, and among the most affluent, although Cruz has an edge with middle-income Texans.
Among “strong Republicans,” Trump and Cruz are essentially tied among men, women, younger voters, older voters, gun owners, nongun owners and college- educated voters, the poll shows.
While Cruz and Trump lead, and Rubio is third, 6 percent say they’ll support Ohio Gov. John Kasich and 5 percent say they’ll support retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Texas voters, long expected to support Cruz in the GOP race, seem to be following a national sentiment.
“People have been fascinated by the Trump phenomenon,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “He’s not running a regular campaign. He’s not conforming to any of the norms of candidates and he hasn’t taken a position on most major issues.
“He’s tapping into a very deep dissatisfaction with the government and the anger over how things are going.”
A separate poll by the Houston Public Media/University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy showed that Cruz has a 14-point lead over Trump among registered Texas Republican voters who are likely to vote in the Texas election on Tuesday.
Clinton holds a strong lead throughout Texas, although Sanders makes up a little ground among voters who are Independent or Independent-leaning.
The SurveyUSA poll contacted 1,750 adults between Feb. 21-22. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for Republican voters and 4.1 percentage points for Democrats.
Her support is strong among those who are “doing well” financially, or “just getting by.” Sanders comes closer, within 10 percentage points of Clinton, among those who say they are “falling behind.”
Texans of all educational backgrounds support Clinton over Sanders.
And of those who voted for Clinton in 2008, 86 percent say they’re planning to vote for her again. At the same time, 58 percent of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 say they now will vote for Clinton.
Sanders is backed by 58 percent of the youngest voters; Clinton dominates in support from middle-aged and senior voters.
“Even if she gets the nomination, she’s going to have a tough time appealing to younger voters,” Riddlesperger said.
The SurveyUSA poll included 1,750 adults contacted on Sunday and Monday. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for Republican candidates and 4.1 percentage points for Democratic candidates.