Over a third of registered Texans haven’t decided whether to send Republican Sen. Ted Cruz back to Washington, D.C. for another term after his second-place finish in the Republican primaries last year, according to a poll released last week.
Cruz, elected in 2012, is either tied with or trailing in matches with two prospective Democratic challengers: Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.
O’Rourke, the only Democrat so far to announce his campaign, is tied with Cruz at 30 percent, while 37 percent are undecided in the poll. Castro, who said he will make a decision by the end of the month, leads the incumbent senator 35 to 31.
Statewide nonpartisan pollster Texas Lyceum surveyed 1,000 Texas adults on their thoughts on President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, as well as approval ratings for statewide elected officials. For key midterm elections such as next year’s senatorial race, the pollsters narrowed the surveyed group to 890 registered voters.
Although the Texas primaries are still less than a year away, pollsters said the survey was still worth testing how engaged Texans are so far and evaluating the base-level of support for Cruz.
“Here’s a senator who’s coming off of finishing second, but he did not win the Republican nomination,” said government professor Daron Shaw, who helped oversee the survey. “He has taken on all of the hits and the baggage that comes with a bruising presidential run, and he’s a Republican at a time when the Republican Party in Texas is still a little ambivalent about Donald Trump.”
Last year, Cruz finished second in his campaign for president, capturing large electoral victories in crucial states such as Iowa and Texas. However, the Texas senator infuriated many in the Republican Party by taking too long to endorse Trump before he went head-to-head with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Shaw said.
The Texas Lyceum poll shows Cruz may need to spend some time repairing his reputation back home to gain the support of undecided voters, many of whom are disenchanted conservatives, Shaw said.
Among all Texas adults, a group that skews more demographically favorable to Democrats when compared to registered Texas adults, a majority has unfavorable opinions of Trump during his first 100 days in office, at 54 to 42 percent.
Despite the president’s underwater numbers, Shaw cautioned that they are what would be expected across party lines, with 86 percent of Texas Republicans approving of Trump’s tenure, and Texas Democrats disapproving at 85 percent.
Government professor Joshua Blank is a manager of polling and research with the Texas Politics Project, who helped oversee the Texas Lyceum poll. Although Trump’s approval ratings are underwater among Texas adults, Blank said he expects the numbers to be closer among registered and likely voters, who lean more Republican.
“If the electorate looks compositionally similar to what it looks like in most elections, then Texas Republicans really don’t have anything to worry about,” Blank said. “If it looks different, then that’s
Texans in both parties will first head to the polls on March 6 for the 2018 primaries, with the general midterm election on Nov. 6, when voters will decide on who will represent them in the Senate, as well as governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide