Washington, D.C. and Texas are abuzz this morning with news of the new Quinnipiac poll showing Sen. Ted Cruz winning re-election by a mere 3 points.
But the biggest shock may be that private polling commissioned by an entity that is neither Democratic nor Republican and undertaken over a month ago now showed the same rough result– a narrow victory for Cruz, in which he would probably be pulled across the finish line not by his own record or campaigning, but by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s very high popularity.
Abbott, who will also be on the ticket this fall, boasts a net +35 approval rating, according to January Morning Consult data.
According to Quinnipiac, “Sen. Cruz gets lackluster grades, including a 47 – 45 percent job approval rating and a 46 – 44 percent favorability rating.” The same basic problem– Cruz is not well-liked– was at the root of his poor numbers in the private poll showing similarly lackluster performance by Cruz.
Some potential upside for Cruz: According to Quinnipiac, “53 percent of Texas voters don’t know enough about [Cruz challenger Beto O’Rourke] to form an opinion of him.” This means Cruz has an opportunity to define his opponent negatively. If he moves swiftly to that effort and soon, these numbers could change starkly.
However, the risk is that this negative definition of O’Rourke isn’t happening as fast as some Texas politics veterans expected, as the Quinnipiac result bears out. That said, Cruz hasn’t exactly kicked his campaign into high gear and Beto will have some explaining to do once his very liberal positions get put under a microscope.
Texas probably won’t go blue this cycle, but these numbers are warning sirens for Republicans, Cruz and Cruz supporters who should treat the investment made by Democrats in the Lone Star State seriously.