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For a while now, the U.S. Senate race in Texas has been considered a toss-up with Democrat Beto O’Rourke appearing to pose a serious challenger to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has had that charisma and magic, often compared to Barack Obama, that seemed to command positive media coverage, adoring fans, and a winning aura. However, polling has recently turned to the point where the race is now falling back to the “Lean Republican” category with just 26 days to go.

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As the Texas Tribune reports, the latest polling has Cruz up 9 points, and it doesn’t appear to be an outlier:

A new poll released Thursday morning showed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has stabilized his lead over his Democrat challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

Fifty-four percent of Texans backed Cruz, while 45 percent backed O’Rourke in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

As for each candidate’s images, 52 percent of Texans surveyed had a favorable view of Cruz, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably. O’Rourke, however, was slightly under water in how Texans viewed him: 45 percent of respondents had a favorable view of O’Rourke, compared to 47 percent who view him unfavorably.

A September poll from the same outfit showed the same margin: a nine-point Cruz lead. While at times Quinnipiac had this race within the margin of error over the last year, the Cruz lead has stabilized in this and other polls to the high single digits.

This most recent poll was conducted Oct. 3-9.

Obviously, the Kavanaugh nomination galvanized some voters, perhaps solidifying Cruz among Texas Republicans, some of whom were no doubt getting caught up in O’Rourke-mania being that Cruz has never been considered all that “likable” as a politician.

In fact, the Cruz campaign must feel so good about their chances, or they simply don’t want to risk it, that they declined an invite from CNN to join O’Rourke for a town hall event on Oct. 18. Since Cruz declined, reports the Star-Telegram, O’Rourke will get the full hour to himself:

CNN is shining a light on three of the “most consequential races” in 2018 — including the Texas bid for U.S. Senate — through debates or town halls in the coming weeks.

But Texans won’t get to see both incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso in this series.

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R) declined CNN’s invitation to participate in the town hall,” a CNN statement noted.

So O’Rourke will be featured in a live, one-hour town hall with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash in South Texas on Oct. 18.

But Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe tweeted: “To be clear, the Cruz campaign proposed that @CNN host one of the Cruz-O’Rourke debates. The O’Rourke campaign declined. @CNN subsequently offered back to back town halls, in which we are unable to participate.”

O’Rourke’s solo town hall will air at 9 p.m. central time Oct. 18 and be televised from the McAllen Performing Arts Center.

It would seem that Cruz has decided the best way to beat O’Rourke among Texas voters is to let O’Rourke keep talking. During the Cruz/O’Rourke debate on Sept. 21, both candidates stuck to their core platforms which turned out to be rather far-left positions for a Texas statewide candidate in O’Rourke’s case. With fairly low name recognition, many Texans tuned in to see O’Rourke and hear more about him for the first time. The end result is that polls continue to move in Cruz’s direction.

As a side note, there was originally to be a debate scheduled on Sept. 28 but that was postponed due to the Kavanaugh hearings. However, there is still a Cruz/O’Rourke debate scheduled for Oct. 16 which, at this time, is still scheduled to go on as planned.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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