For the second time in as many polls, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leads the pack among Texas Republican voters as their top choice among potential 2016 presidential candidates, but just barely. Cruz has dropped back from twenty-seven percent to twenty percent but still maintained his lead. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker jumped from two percent of the vote in an October, 2014 poll to nineteen percent in Tuesday’s University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Former Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) fell from a second place finish in the October poll to fifth place in the current poll. Perry’s support has been cut in half – down from fourteen to seven percent.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush moved from a three-way tie for fourth place to a two-way tie for third in the current poll. Governor Bush increased two percentage points to tie with Dr. Ben Carson at nine percent of the vote.
Another potential candidate with Texas ties, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) fell from a three-way tie for fourth place in October with seven percent of the vote to a two-way tie with Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) for sixth place at four percent each. Rubio gained one percentage point.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee fell from seven percent to five percent while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fell from three percent to two percent.
Not previously in the poll was former Alaska Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. She entered the Texas poll at three percent.
The co-director of the poll, Jim Henson, said in a Texas Tribune report, “Scott Walker is clearly breathing some of the oxygen on the right. The big takeaway here is that Ted Cruz is still a giant among Texas Republicans — but he is not invulnerable.”
“Conservatives are willing to look at another candidate who fits that profile,” he concluded. “We’re now a year out from primary season. It’s not really a race yet, but it is a shift, and people are probably starting to think about it.”
Conservative and Tea Party voters seem to be splitting their votes between Cruz, Walker, Perry and Carson. Bush has a solid hold on the moderate Republican vote with his nine percentage points.
In other data in this poll, the new Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, has the strongest job approval rating among Texas officials. Senator Cruz, former Governor Perry, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are nearly even with their favorable and unfavorable ratings.
House Speaker Joe Straus had the lowest favorability rating of the five officials in the poll. He had a fourteen percent unfavorable rating and nearly fifty percent of those polled did not know who he was. His favorable rating was twelve percent. Seventy-four percent of those polled were either neutral or did not know who the House Speaker was.