Photo: Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News/POOL / Emily Albracht for the Texas Tribune
BY ROSS RAMSEY, Texas Tribune
Republican Ted Cruz leads Democrat Beto O’Rourke 51 percent to 45 percent in the Texas race for the U.S. Senate, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Libertarian Neal Dikeman was the choice of 2 percent of likely voters and another 2 percent said they would vote for someone else.
Democratic and Republican voters, as might be expected, lined up strongly behind their respective party’s candidates. But independent voters, a group that often leans to the Republicans in statewide elections, broke for O’Rourke, 51 percent to Cruz’s 39 percent.
“The major Senate candidates were trying to mobilize their partisans, without a lot of attempt to get voters to cross over. And it looks like they’ve done that,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “If you look for Republican defections to Beto O’Rourke, they’re not there. But the independents break to the Democrat instead of the Republican in that race.”
The poll of likely Texas voters was conducted before early voting in the general election began this week.
In several other races for statewide office, Republicans hold double-digit leads over their Democratic opponents.
Gov. Greg Abbott maintains a comfortable 19-percentage point lead over Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, with 56 percent backing him to her 37 percent. Mark Tippetts, a Libertarian, attracted 3 percent support and 4 percent said they would vote for someone else.
In that race, independent voters lined up with Abbott, 59 percent to 30 percent. And Valdez’s support among Democrats, while strong, didn’t match O’Rourke’s. Where the Senate candidate had 94 percent of Democrats behind him, 82 percent of Democrats said they would vote for the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick leads Democratic challenger Mike Collier by 18 percentage points, with 53 percent of the vote to Collier’s 35 percent. Libertarian Kerry McKennon drew 5 percent; 7 percent of voters said they’d prefer someone else.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s race is slightly closer; he leads Democrat Justin Nelson by 12 percentage points, 48 percent to 36 percent. Michael Ray Harris, the Libertarian in that contest, got 6 percent, and 10 percent said they would vote for someone else.
“Abbott does better than other Republicans with Hispanic voters — even running against a Latina,” said Josh Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at UT. Valdez had the support of 52 percent of Hispanics to Abbott’s 39 percent. Compare that with O’Rourke at 60 percent to Cruz’s 33 percent; Collier’s 44 percent to Patrick’s 40 percent; and Nelson’s 44 percent to Paxton’s 30 percent.