Texas: Cruz Holds On to Super Tuesday Lead in Home State

Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, (R) listens as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks on February 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The latest Texas polls ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Super Tuesday vote, show Sen. Ted Cruz maintaining a lead. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Cruz leads Donald Trump by 6 points, with Sen. Marco Rubio a distant third.

The most recent poll is from Dallas CBS station KTVT, which has conducted two earlier polls in the Lone Star State. The station’s poll was conducted entirely on Monday, after the South Carolina primary but before the Nevada caucus. The poll found Cruz increasing his support slightly from an earlier poll at the end of January. Cruz currently has 33 percent support, 8 points higher than Trump with 25 percent. Marco Rubio is 10 points behind Trump with 15 percent support.

At the end of January, Cruz led Trump by 5 points, 30-25. A poll from the station in October last year showed Carson in the lead by 1 point over Trump, with Cruz in third. The most recent poll from CBS interviewed 725 likely primary voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.

Two polls conducted mostly over the weeked show a much closer contest. A poll from Emerson, conducted Sunday-Tuesday, show Cruz with a slim 1 point lead over Trump and Rubio just 4 points behind Trump. Cruz has a +15 favorable rating, while Trump’s postive rating is -5. The poll’s sample was smaller, with 446 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent.

A SurveyUSA poll, conducted Sunday and Monday, finds the race between Cruz and Trump tied, with each earning 32 percent. Rubio is 15 points back in third, with 17 percent support. Cruz and Trump are tied in just about every demographic group as well.

Cruz leads by 20 points among “very conservative” voters, 41 points among Tea Party supporters, 14 points among evangelicals and 7 points among Hispanics. Trump leads moderate voters by 16, Independents by 9, non-Tea Party supporters by 8 and non-evangelicals by 14 points.

The SurveyUSA poll seems to overcount the likely number of moderate and non-evangelicals expected to vote in the Texas primary. Its poll sample has a roughly equal number of moderate and non-evangelical voters as evangelical and very conservative voters. In 2008, the number of evangelical voters was 60 percent and one-third of the electorate described themselves as “very conservative.” Only 20 percent of primary voters in Texas were “moderate.”

The University of Houston also released a poll on Wednesday, showing Cruz with a 15 point lead over Trump, 35-20. Marco Rubio was a distant third with just 8 percent support, essentially tied with Ben Carson who has 7 percent. The Houston poll, however, was conducted over a 10-day period, February 12-22. That is a very long time horizon for a Presidential contest that dominates the news every day.

The Houston poll would also largely predate the primary contest in South Carolina and caucus in Nevada, two contests that will no doubt boost Trump’s chances in Texas. The poll is interesting, nontheless for what it reveals about the issue priorities of Texas voters. Those are less susceptible to change over a short period of time.

Terrorism is the top concern of 28 percent Texas Republican voters. The economy and government government spending are tied for second, with 24 percent of voters picking each as their top issue. Immigration is the top issue for just 17 percent of Republican voters.

Texas voters, however, seem to have a different view of illegal immigration than other states. Just 34 percent of Republican voters want to deport illegal immigrants, a much smaller number than in either New Hampshire or South Carolina. Almost 60 percent believe illegal immigrants should be offered a path to legalization.

Just 51 percent of Republicans support a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating to the United States.

A small plurality, 45 percent, of voters are “angry” at the federal government, a much smaller percentage than Nevada. Almost half, 48 percent, blame Obama and the Republicans in Congress equally, while 45 percent solely blame Obama and the Democrats.

Texas is the largest prize of delegates on Super Tuesday, offering 155 of the almost 600 awarded that day. Beyond the number of delegates, however, Texas is a must-win for Cruz and his campaign. It is hard to imagine him competing deeply into the primary contests if he doesn’t win his home state. Fortunately for him, he currently remains the favorite to capture it on March 1.