Depending on which poll you believe, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst leads the Texas Senate race by 8 points, or former solicitor general Ted Cruz leads by 9.
Both polls have campaign connections: The Dewhurst poll was a true internal, while the Cruz poll was taken by a group aligned with but not directly part of his campaign. Both polls point to a photo finish, but the Cruz poll does have one dynamic that favors it by a little bit. While the Dewhurst poll looks at past Texas GOP primary voters who also stated an intent to vote in the July 31 runoff. The Cruz poll narrows its sample to those who actually voted in the May 29 primary and who intend to vote again on July 31. It may therefore more accurately reflect what is happening on the ground in Texas right now, by the unscientific margin of a smidgen. But Dewhurst finished first on May 29 by 11 points, so Cruz has had some ground to make up.
Who ends up winning may depend on what the cast off candidates’ supporters do. One theory posits that the 13 percent who earned former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert his third place showing will mostly go for Dewhurst, while another posits that those voters aren’t very likely to vote on July 31 at all. Leppert’s well-funded campaign never really got beyond the Dallas region, while both Dewhurst and Cruz ran and continue to run true statewide efforts. Runoff voters tend to be the motivated grass roots types, a subset of the overall Texas Republican electorate. Those voters, one would expect, already supported either the sitting lieutenant governor or the Tea Party-backed challenger and not a regional figure. The polls agree that a large slice of the relevant electorate have not yet finally decided which of the two finalists they will vote for. Both campaigns have substantial room to grow.
Up to this week, there had not been a seminal event that threatened to shake things up. There had been a debate but it amounted to a nil-nil draw, which would favor the man who led at the outset — Dewhurst. There have been lots of accusations from both sides that the other is a wretch, as always happens in a hot primary that will determine the November outcome absent a meteor strike or act of the political gods, though the reality is most Texas Republicans probably like both candidates. Wednesday’s dual revelations — one, that Dewhurst spoke out in favor of a broad guest worker program for illegal aliens five years ago, and two, that Cruz failed to file his financial disclosure forms on time — may provide that moment. But they’re too fresh to show up in the polls yet.
Bottom line: It’s going to be close. The dueling and contradictory polls and the fiery campaign messages back and forth tell us that much.
Update: A Public Policy Polling poll out today is sure to provide fire to the Cruz campaign.
PPP’s first poll of the Texas Senate runoff finds Ted Cruz with a surprising 49-44 lead and a much more enthusiastic cadre of supporters than former front runner David Dewhurst.
Cruz’s lead expands to a whooping 59-36 margin over Dewhurst among voters who describe themselves as ‘very excited’ about voting in the election. The lower turnout is, the better Cruz’s chances will be. Dewhurst leads 51-43 with ‘somewhat excited’ voters and 50-36 with those who say they are ‘not that excited.’ The big question is whether those less enthused folks will actually bother to turn out or not.
That’s a very good poll for Cruz, but should come with the usual PPP caveat: That firm once found President Obama ahead of Rick Perry when the latter was still flying high in the GOP presidential primary. So…