So here’s some big news today out of Texas:
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz leads challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, by 3.6 percentage points among likely voters in a new University of Texas at Tyler poll released Wednesday.
According to the poll, which is the first one released by the university, 47 percent of the 905 likely voters surveyed online and on the phone said they would vote for Cruz, while 43.4 percent said they would vote for O’Rourke; 5.7 percent said they were “not sure,” and 3.9 percent chose “other.”
Among registered voters in the poll, Cruz’s lead was slightly larger at 4.3 percentage points, with 46.5 percent of respondents saying they would vote for Cruz, 42.2 percent saying they would vote for O’Rourke, 7.7 percent saying they were “not sure” and 3.5 percent choosing “other.”
The poll follows a slate of polls that show Cruz’s lead over O’Rourke narrowing. A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday said Cruz was up by 5 percentage points, and a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Friday showed Cruz up by 6.
The UT-Tyler poll was conducted Oct. 15-28 and surveyed 1,033 adults. The margin of error among likely voters was 3.26 percentage points, while the margin of error among registered voters was 3.03 percentage points, according to Mark Owens, a political science professor at UT-Tyler who helped run the poll.
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.
Beto has shot so much enthusiasm into this campaign and early voting is insanely high. He’s energized the yout vote:
Young voters turned out in droves for the rallies of Democrat Beto O’Rourke in his challenge to incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Although less than two years separates Cruz and O’Rourke by age, O’Rourke was viewed as youthful and vigorous, an agent of change against the incivility and bitterness of American politics. For having spent years positioning himself as the outsider, Cruz represented the status quo of limited government and conservative culture—a candidate well positioned for the God, guns, and country politics of older and rural Texans.
In one public opinion survey after another, young people shored O’Rourke up and made him look competitive with Cruz. A Marist University survey in early August, found O’Rourke trailing by just four percentage points statewide. More than half the registered voters under the age of 45 backed O’Rourke, while older voters supported Cruz. A Quinnipiac survey at about that same time found O’Rourke leading among voters under the age of 50, but Cruz took a commanding lead with older voters.
This age gap continued in more recent surveys of likely voters. A new Quinnipiac survey found O’Rourke had the support of 66 percent of the likely voters between the ages of 18 and 34, but he started dropping off after that. Overall, Cruz only led by 51 percent to 46 percent, but it was that youth vote that put O’Rourke in the chase. University of Texas pollster James Henson shared with me the age numbers from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey that also found a 51/45 race with Cruz slightly ahead of O’Rourke. The underdog had 71 percent support among the voters who were surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29, and 55 percent from those 30-44. Again, Cruz took over with older voters.
Despite all that, activists like Diaz say they have reason to be optimistic. The grinding efforts of Cambio Texas have allowed them to reach some 13,000 voters in Hidalgo County over the last month. Several other grassroots organizations have also stepped into the fray.
The national outfit Voto Latino registered some 52,000 voters this year, blowing past its figure for the 2016 presidential election by more than 30 percent. Private companies including Lyft are helping the group give those voters a free ride to the polls. Attorney Eric Cedillo, retired businessman Richard Marcus and former school administrator Rene Martinez founded a group to boost turnout among Latino millennials, whose volunteers registered around 7,000 people in the Dallas area since last year, mostly high school students. The Austin-based Latino civic engagement group Jolt, founded last year, has knocked on nearly 40,000 doors, also in Dallas, with the goal of speaking to each household at least four times before Election Day. Battleground Texas remains active, though it keeps a lower profile and its donations deflated this year to less than 15 percent of its 2014 haul of $8 million.
It’s old-fashioned neighborhood canvassing — more than digital ads or resentment against Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric — that holds the most promise to boost Latino turnout, according to the Jolt report. That assertion is backed by Lisa Garcia Bedolla, a political scientist who’s studied the Latino voter mobilization campaigns of the 1990s, when the state flipped from red to blue.
“We know if you meet people where they’re at and have conversations that are culturally competent, it works,” García Bedolla told HuffPost. “People keep saying that because Latinos feel threatened, they’ll get angry and vote. That’s not what happens. Some people do, if they have a history of political action or a counter-narrative… Other people will retreat to the things they can control and say, ‘That’s not for me.’”
Democrats are putting up more competitive candidates, too. O’Rourke’s campaign has done a lot. In a cycle where the top of the Democratic ticket is weak — Lupe Valdez is trailing by a margin of around 20 points in her attempt to dethrone Gov. Greg Abbott — O’Rourke has made a statewide race competitive. And despite grumbling from candidates in competitive races elsewhere, the money he has raised is staying in Texas. Part of it has funded statewide block-walking events across the state.
Transitory enthusiasm isn’t a substitute for longterm investment in turnout, Jolt Director Cristina Tzintzún said. But both O’Rourke’s efforts and the growth of community groups like hers and Cambio Texas appear to be pushing the state in a new direction.
“Beto is making as much headway as he is, not because of the infrastructure, but in spite of it,” Tzintzún said. “If you’re going to change Texas, any candidate needs grassroots groups registering Latino voters in off cycles. And the best groups to do that are community groups.”
And Beto has been getting voters in rural Texas ramped up:
He was standing last week in a hallway of a Baptist church in the East Texas city of Tyler. Hundreds of supporters squeezed into the pews, sat on the green carpet or stood along the sides to hear the El Paso congressman’s speech, delivered from the pulpit, as a phone on a tripod beamed it out live on Facebook. The pastor, the Rev. Mark Hood, said it was the biggest crowd he had ever seen in the Liberty Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary for any event, political, religious or otherwise.
“This is a phenomenon,” said Nancy Nichols, 63, a Tyler businesswoman who has volunteered for the O’Rourke campaign in East Texas. “This is grass roots. And you know it’s grass roots because there’s one glitch after another. We’re just real people.”
Mr. O’Rourke has what many view as a formidable — and downright impossible, some argue — task for a Democrat: knocking a Republican incumbent from his Senate seat in Texas. Strategists and current and former elected officials who have run Democratic statewide campaigns said that if Mr. O’Rourke has a prayer, it gets partially answered here in East Texas.
Mr. O’Rourke, they said, must persuade voters who have voted reliably Republican in recent years to return to their Southern Democrat roots.
That’s not the only thing he must do. As a Spanish-speaking native of El Paso, Mr. O’Rourke must ensure that Latinos around the state, including many of those who have never voted in their lives, go to the polls, a goal that strategists believe is the key to turning Texas from red to purple.
And he must also get a sizable number of voters in the middle-class regions where blue urban Texas meets red suburban Texas. In 2016, Fort Bend County, a diverse and fast-growing area near Houston, was a hodgepodge of victory and defeat for both parties: Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump, but several congressional, State House and State Senate seats stayed in Republican hands.
You bet this win is very possible and we can make it happen on Election Day. Click below to get out the vote for Beto and his fellow Texas Democrats: