Thursday, June 30, 2011

GOP favored in Texas Senate, but potential for competitiveness

Republicans start out with the advantage for the open Senate seat in Texas being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison's retirement but prospective Democratic candidates are within close enough striking distance that an upset is possible if the breaks all go their way.

David Dewhurst is the strongest candidate at this point. He's the only one with greater than 50% name recognition and he leads all the Democrats we tested- it's a 4 point advantage over actor Tommy Lee Jones at 43-39, a 6 point one over former Comptroller John Sharp at 43-37, and an 8 point edge over former general Ricardo Sanchez at 45-37.

Tommy Lee Jones for Senate? We included him in the poll because there is a movement drafting him to run. He actually has a better favorability rating, at 28/14, than any of the candidates more likely to make the race. He has the sort of bipartisan appeal a Democrat would need to win statewide in Texas, with Republicans giving him a 25/12 favorability spread and independents a particularly good 35/12 one. He polls the best of any Democrat not just against Dewhurst but also against GOP hopefuls Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert. A Jones candidacy is probably a pipe dream for Democrats but the numbers do suggest he would have the potential to be a strong nominee.

After Dewhurst the strongest of the Republicans we tested is Ted Cruz. He trail Jones 38-37 but leads more likely Democratic candidates Sharp 40-36 and Sanchez 41-32. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert would start out basically in a toss up situation with the Democrats, leading Jones and Sharp each by a point at 38-37 and 39-38 respectively and holding a 3 point advantage over Sanchez at 38-35.

There are a lot of undecideds in each of those match ups and that reflects the fact that this just isn't a particularly well known candidate field at this point. Dewhurst has 55% name recognition, Sharp's is 39%, Sanchez's 33%, Leppert's 32%, and Cruz's is only 25%. This race has a lot of potential to swing strongly in one direction or another as voters become more familiar with the candidates.

Republicans start out with the advantage here no doubt. But keep in mind that John Cornyn only got reelected by 12 points in 2008 even with an opponent who was not terribly well funded. A better funded Democrat in an open seat situation may have a chance next year.

Full results here


Kevin said...

The only way the Democrats could win this is if:

Dewhurst loses the nomination
Tommy Lee Jones gets into the race
TLJ runs a fantastic campaign
Republican makes a major gaffe
Bachmann is the Presidential nominee
Obama does very well nationally (2008 or better)

I think it would take extraordinary luck for all of those to happen. Even if they did, I still think TLJ would probably lose by a slight margin.

Pat H said...

I don't see Democrats winning this. Independents do favor the Dems in all match-ups, but in the January poll they favored the Republicans. This could be just a one time thing. If you do another poll, and Independents still favor the Dems, then I might be more concerned. Also, Republicans are almost just as undecided as Democrats in most of the match-ups, and with roughly the same amount of cross-over on both sides, I see it hard for the Dems to have a chance right now.

Anonymous said...

Why was Chet Edwards not included in this poll? He's been talked about as a candidate fairly regularly, and he could potentially make the seat as competitive as Sharp would.

The Interesting Times said...

The Democrats won't win Hutchison's seat.

Texas is to the Democratic Party as California is to the Republican Party: a place where a win is possible in theory (maybe even with a few polls to back it up), but never actually happens.

Kim said...

Michelle Bachmann makes Sarah Palin sounds intelligent, is that scary or what!

Kim said...

I know this is a long shot but if Michelle Bachmann gets the Republican nomination for President, Obama is definitely a shoo-in for another term.

Anonymous said...

There's a movement to draft State Senator Wendy Davis, of Tarrant County. I'd like to see her included in the poll.

NRH said...

Not gonna happen in 2012 without some major political upheaval (a viable third-party bid, massive unforgivable gaffe, state economic downturn souring voters on Republican policies in a hurry, etc). But Texas used to be nowhere near the table; it's close enough now that Republicans could plausibly be forced to play some defense there, the same way Democrats expect wins in California and New Jersey but can't sit back and coast. The strongest GOP cohort in Texas is the 65+ crowd; by the time this seat comes up again in six years, this year's 65+ voters will be 71+, and have suffered a significant dropout rate.

This election could be Texas' Virginia-2006 - a major gaffe could be enough for a razor-thin Democratic win, but that win presages an increasing Democratic state presence.

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