An unsettling new poll from Quinnipiac shows that the 2018 race for U.S. Senate in Texas may be closer than people think.
In this poll, conducted between April 12 and April 17, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leads Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke by only 3 percentage points, within the 3.6 percent margin of error.
Sen race – Cruz and O’Rourke too close to call in race for Texas Senate https://t.co/8XgvU4ouWj GRAPH https://t.co/Ct92DTVbJn— Quinnipiac University Poll (@Quinnipiac University Poll) 1524074401.0
Party ID breakdown in @QuinnipiacPoll's Texas sample: - Republican: 31% - Democrat: 24 - Independent: 36 - Other/DK… https://t.co/LNATZ57eeI— Patrick Svitek (@Patrick Svitek) 1524076761.0
Of the 1,029 registered voters surveyed, the poll found O'Rourke leading among independents 50 - 34 percent. Assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll Peter A. Brown said the Democrat's lead with independents is what's tightening the race.
"The key may well be independent voters. O'Rourke's 51 - 37 percent lead among that group is key to his standing today. But Texas remains a strong GOP state so O'Rourke will need the independent strength to pull the upset."
Cruz does lead O'Rourke on several issues, however:
Voters say Cruz would do a better job than O'Rourke on a number of issues:
- 51 - 35 percent that Cruz would do a better job on the economy;
- 49 - 36 percent for Cruz on taxes;
- 43 percent say Cruz would do a better job on health care, as 42 percent say O'Rourke would be better;
- 46 - 38 percent that Cruz would be better on immigration;
- 50 - 37 percent that Cruz would be better on gun policy.
It's important to note that this poll finds President Trump's favorability 9 points underwater. "Voters disapprove 52 - 43 percent of the job President Donald Trump is doing" ... in Texas. However, 43 percent of those polled said President Trump would not be an important factor in their U.S. Senate vote.
Does this poll show that Ted Cruz is going to lose in November? No. At least not yet. Not all registered voters are likely voters, and if this poll took into account the people that actually intend to show up on Election Day, the results might be more typical of deep red Texas. It's also important to remember that more Republicans voted for Cruz in the GOP primary than showed up to vote for all the Democratic candidates combined.
Polls are bad for predicting election results. They do, however, show trends. The trend here, as it is nationwide, is that the Democratic Party is showing strength heading in to the 2018 midterms. O'Rourke's strong fundraising and stronger-than-expected polling should put conservative voters -- and the Cruz campaign -- on notice.