Texas Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz leads David Dewhurst in two new polls released by independent polling organizations on Thursday. Cruz, in both polls, was powered by his overwhelming support among the conservative Tea Party voters who dominate low-turnout GOP primaries. The runoff between the two is on July 31.
Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic-leaning polling outfit, found Cruz leading the race 49 percent to 44 percent over Dewhurst. Wenzel Strategies, the group whose polls were leading indicators in the Indiana and Nebraska GOP Senate primaries, found Cruz leading 47 percent to 38 percent.
In recent weeks, Cruz's and Dewhurst's campaigns released polls that had their respective candidate ahead, but these polls seem to indicate that Cruz's internal poll was closer to reality.
PPP found that 40 percent of primary voters identified themselves as part of the Tea Party movement. Among those voters, Cruz leads Dewhurst, 71-26.
“This race is one of the most stark examples of the Tea Party movement propelling a candidate that we've seen to date,” according to PPP.
Further, in the PPP poll, Cruz leads Dewhurst 59-36 among “very excited” voters, which is important because those voters are most likely to vote in what is going to be a low-turnout runoff election in the middle of summer with scorching temperatures.
PPP found Cruz leading among Hispanic Republicans (78-19), men (55-38), “very conservative” voters (61-34), and Evangelicals (50-42).
Dewhurst, according to PPP, has a slim lead among women (49-44), seniors (47-45), and “somewhat conservative” voters (49-45).
Dewhurst’s biggest lead is among “moderate” voters (70-20), but as PPP notes, Dewhurts’s 50-point lead among moderate voters does not push him into the lead overall, which shows how conservative the primary electorate in a state like Texas has become.
This is why Dewhurst has tried to cast himself as more conservative than his record has been in the primary. In recent days, Dewhurst was caught deleting a 2007 pro-amnesty speech from his state’s lieutenant governor website. In that speech, he said he favored guest worker permits for illegal immigrants currently in Texas. During their first debate, Dewhurst denied supporting a guest worker program. Dewhurst also denied supporting a payroll tax when his office sent out a press release touting his support of the tax.
Meanwhile, Cruz has been backed by many anti-establishment political figures like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Most importantly, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Cruz, which enabled him to solidify the “very conservative” and “Tea Party” vote behind him and make it into the runoff. Cruz’s numbers are probably helped even more by the Supreme Court’s ruling that Obamacare is constitutional as a tax, as Texans see the "more conservative" Cruz as someone who would be much more reliable casting conservative votes than Dewhurst when representing Texas in Washington.