Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from within his own party.
Both leads are within the poll’s 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.
The finding suggests that O’Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.
“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.
Cruz’s feuds with Trump during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign also hurt his standing with some Texas Republicans, Sabato added, saying: “That damaged him with parts of the Texas electorate that he needs for re-election.”
The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA poll was conducted online, in English, from Sept. 5 to 17. It surveyed between 992 and 1,039 people in each of five states including California and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.
The results measured how voters felt at the time of the survey. In 2016, one in eight Americans decided which candidate to vote for in the presidential election in the week before Election Day, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Other surveys have found that Cruz maintained a strong lead. A Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday showed Cruz holding a 9-point lead over O’Rourke.
Forty-seven percent of likely voters told Reuters they would vote for O'Rourke, while 45 percent said they would cast their ballot for Cruz. Three percent said they would vote for “Other,” and 5 percent said “None.”
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday put Cruz 9 percentage points ahead of O’Rourke among likely voters. That poll was based on phone interviews, while the Ipsos poll used an online survey. But it’s trying to predict who will show up on Election Day that shifts the numbers, said Ipsos Vice President Chris Jackson.
Ipsos is trying to gauge political enthusiasm on each side, said Jackson. The poll asked respondents to estimate the likelihood that they’d vote in the midterm elections on a scale from one to 10. “More Democrats are registering at the highest part of the scale, at the 10, than the Republicans,” Jackson said. And that’s what’s interesting, he said, because Republicans usually have the momentum advantage in Texas.
“It demonstrates how Democrats are mobilized,” said Jackson. “This election is going to be really competitive and its going be very hard fought.”
Healthcare and immigration were the issues that Texas voters valued most, according to the poll, but it’s “very lopsided,” Jackson said. Republican respondents cared most about immigration and Democrats cared most about healthcare with very little overlap.
Respondents were also asked whether they perceived Cruz and O’Rourke as “traditional” politicians. Sixty-three percent of respondents saw Cruz as traditional, while only 28 percent perceived O’Rourke that way — something that may be to O’Rourke’s advantage in a political climate that leans away from establishment politics, Jackson said.
There are reasons to be skeptical, sure. It’s an online poll in English but Reuters/Ispos has also been reliable in the past. But Cruz knows he’s in for a dogfight race and as Vice News points out, he’s taking nothing for granted:
“The danger is that the economy is booming, people are focused on their jobs and their kids, going to church, going to the ballgame, and they just don't make it out to vote,” Cruz told the crowd. “Our danger is complacency.”
Cruz leads O’Rourke by 4 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics average. But he faces more than just the familiar incumbents’ paradox that when things are good, parties in power have a hard time mobilizing voters.
The bigger worry is voter overconfidence. According to internal Republican National Committee data reported by Axios, the Republican faithful are unusually immune to reports showing that Democratic candidates are on the rise. One recent RNC survey found that 57 percent of strong Trump supporters don’t believe that Democrats will retake the House.
“To me, the polls that we're seeing right now are eerily similar to the Trump-Clinton polls that we saw going up to the election,” said Tom Kelley, the GOP chair for Colorado County, at Cruz’s stop in Columbus. “It's all hype and hyperbole.”
Texas is a hard state to poll, given these unique circumstances, because it’s a reliable red state that doesn’t get polled as much by places like Quinnipiac and Reuters. But Beto has been focused on getting folks who don’t vote in big numbers in midterms out to the polls this year. College students are a big group he’s aiming for:
Sunday was a day of college visits for U.S. Rep Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, as he spoke to packed town halls of university students here and in College Station.
“It’s young people who are leading the charge right now in Texas, here in this community, and across the country,” the El Paso congressman told hundreds at an auditorium at Texas State University. “If I hope to serve and represent you, I’ve got to first show up and be here.”
Students had lined up two hours ahead of time to see O’Rourke take the stage, as others peeked inside the auditorium for a glimpse.
Wearing a maroon Texas State cap, O'Rourke told the crowd to have “uncomfortable conversations with your Republican mother,” just as O’Rourke did with his own mom.
“It worked,” he said, “because she’s going to vote for me in November.”
O’Rourke’s campaign, which he said is operating the largest field organization in the history of Texas politics, has drawn much of its core support from college campuses like this one.
Yunuen Alvarado, a junior whose campus group, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, helped bring the candidate to Texas State, said O'Rourke's efforts to travel around the state and meet with Texans at town halls like this one have won him strong support on campus.
“A lot of candidates don’t tend to focus on young people, they don’t make the effort to go out to talk to people,” she said, adding that “for Beto, that’s his brand. Yes, he’s a politician, but he’s willing to listen to us.”
Rhett Parr, another Texas State student, said that left-leaning students were fired up behind his campaign after feelings of disillusionment following the 2016 presidential election.
Hays County, home to Texas State University and the college town of San Marcos, went narrowly in 2016 to Donald Trump, who edged out Hillary Clinton by less than one percentage point.
“Students are excited to actually put their voice to use and feel like it matters,” Parr said.
During the town hall, O’Rourke answered questions about what he thinks about impeaching Trump, how to address the wealth gap between African-Americans and whites and whether he supports Betsy DeVos’ efforts to bring guns to campuses (“No,” he said).
One man in the audience, who asked a question about school choice, said he identifies as a “Mexican-American conservative” and said it was important to come out and listen to a progressive candidate.
Speaking to reporters before going onstage, O’Rourke said he wants to attract all sorts of young voters — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — as well as those who have never voted at all.
And of course, he’s pushing for a big Hispanic turnout:
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday released the first Spanish-language television advertisement of his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
The 30-second video features the El Paso Democrat speaking as clips of supporters at different campaign events move across the screen.
“He visitado los 254 condados en Texas porque quiero representar a cada persona en nuestro estado,” O'Rourke says in Spanish, telling viewers that he has visited all 254 counties in the Texas because “I want to represent every person in our state.”
O'Rourke is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for the seat he has held since 2013. The race has seen an increase in intensity, with the general election less than two months away. Cruz has released several advertisements, including some attacking O'Rourke.
The new Spanish-language ad will play on television stations in El Paso, Corpus Christi, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen and Laredo starting on Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, have agreed to three debates before Election Day.
Announced Friday by both campaigns, the schedule calls for debates Sept. 21 in Dallas, Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Each event will be an hour long and vary in topic and format:
- Dallas: Domestic policy, moderated
- Houston: Domestic policy, “town hall style”
- San Antonio: Half domestic policy, half foreign policy; moderated
The Dallas debate will be at Southern Methodist University, the Houston debate will be at the University of Houston and the San Antonio debate will be at a studio there.
So let’s keep up the momentum and help keep Beto’s campaign nice and fueled. Click here to donate and get involved with Beto’s campaign.