Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a nine-point lead in his bid for reelection, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
With seven weeks until Election Day, Cruz has a 54 percent to 45 percent lead over Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso among likely voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.
“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the poll. “These numbers may calm that talk.
“Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better.”
Ninety-three percent of likely Texas voters say their mind is already made up in this race, which has been more competitive than expected in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than 20 years.
Tuesday’s poll comes nearly two months after a previous Quinnipiac poll, which looked at registered voters, showed Cruz with 49 percent of the vote to O’Rourke’s 43 percent. A Texas Lyceum poll released that same day showed Cruz with a slim lead of 41 percent to O’Rourke’s 39 percent.
Poll officials warn that Tuesday’s poll is their first survey of likely voters “and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters.”
The battle for the U.S. Senate tops a list of dozens of races on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The deadline to register in this election is Oct. 9. Early voting runs from Oct. 22-Nov. 2
Breaking it down
Cruz has support from men, 57 percent who say they’ll vote for Cruz, and white voters, 66 percent who say they’ll vote for Cruz.
Women aren’t as sharply divided in this race, with 50 percent supporting Cruz and 48 percent supporting O’Rourke.
At the same time, 97 percent of black voters and 54 percent of Hispanic voters say they’ll support O’Rourke, the poll shows.
While Cruz has support from 94 percent of Republicans and O’Rourke has support from 94 percent of Democrats, Independent voters are leaning toward O’Rourke, with 51 percent saying they’ll support him and 47 percent supporting Cruz, the poll shows.
This Quinnipiac survey was conducted Sept. 11-17, reaching 807 likely voters on landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
The poll also shows that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leads 58-39 over Democrat Lupe Valdez in his re-election bid.
And Texans are divided on the job approval rating for President Donald Trump. They are split 49-49, according to the poll.
Quest for Senate
Cruz won a David vs. Goliath primary election for this post against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2012, propelled to victory by tea party and grassroots support. He went on to handily win the general election and make headlines — along with one presidential bid — during the six years of his first term.
Republicans have been confident in his ability to win re-election, until O’Rourke began exceeding fund-raising expectations.
Polls began showing the race tightening.
O’Rourke, who has traveled around the state since last year to meet voters, has caught up with Cruz in fund-raising, as both hover around $23 million, according to OpenSecrets.org, which reviewed campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission between Jan. 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018.
The Democrat has talked about how he was arrested for drunken driving in 1998, calling it “a serious mistake for which there is no excuse” and using it as a spring board to talk about proposals for criminal justice reform.
He has drawn praise from some for appearing on TV talk shows such as Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Colbert. He also has drawn rebukes, such as when the city of Reno, Texas, passed a resolution refuting his controversial national anthem comments.
Countdown is on
Republicans have said they believe O’Rourke’s election bid “is a serious threat” to Cruz’s re-election.
Congressional leaders have stepped up to help Cruz, as has President Donald Trump, who plans to hold a rally at the “biggest stadium in Texas” to help out.
The fight for this Senate seat, which has been represented by Republicans since 1993, is dominating headlines and TV commercials.
The first debate between Cruz and O’Rourke is scheduled for Friday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.