Texas Poll: Beto Lives for Now, Tight General Election Between Trump, Biden

The Associated Press
AP Photo/John Locher

A poll of Texas from Emerson College released on Monday shows a tight Democrat presidential primary there, and a similarly close general election fight brewing in the Lone Star state.

The survey of 342 Democrat primary voters in Texas found former Vice President Joe Biden with a slim 1-point lead over former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX) while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont comes in third–and the rest of the pack in the Democrat primary there lingers down in single digits.

The poll was conducted from April 25 to April 28 and has a margin of error of 5.3 percent.

Biden comes in at 23 percent, while O’Rourke is right behind him at 22 percent and Sanders is at 17 percent. The next closest candidate, Indiana’s South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, pulls just single digits down at 8 percent. Under Buttigieg are Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 7 percent, former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Julian Castro at 4 percent, and Andrew Yang and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each at 3 percent. A number of other candidates like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel come in at 1 percent. Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), as well as activist Marianne Williamson, Miramar, Florida, mayor Wayne Messam, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee all come in at negligible numbers less than one percent but greater than zero percent while 7 percent of respondents want “someone else.”

It’s no surprise that Biden is out in front, as he has tended to be in most polls in most states and nationally leading up to his launch last week and in the wake of it. But the fact that O’Rourke is running as solidly as he is in Texas–a strong second place as of now–while unsurprising as he ran a tight race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for Senate last year is also surely a relief for the thus-far struggling O’Rourke campaign. In most polling nationally and in other states, O’Rourke has failed to register significantly anywhere near the top tier or even the second tier of candidates–and a faulty campaign rollout coupled with departures of key staff early in the campaign has set the former congressman once viewed as perhaps the next Barack Obama back significantly on his way out the gate past the campaign starting block.

Spencer Kimball, the Emerson Poll’s director, is quoted in the release announcing the survey’s results that O’Rourke cannot take the Lone Star state for granted though.

“It looks like Beto O’Rourke does not have Texas locked up,” Kimball said. “Bernie Sanders had trouble back in 2016 in southern states, including losing Texas by 32 points (65% to 33%) to Hillary Clinton, so it will be exciting to see who can capture the Lone Star state in next March’s key Super Tuesday contest.”

The survey also found some interesting general election details. Against Biden, President Donald Trump per the survey comes in behind the former Vice President by 1 percent–Biden leads Trump 50 percent to 49 percent–in the Lone Star state, and against O’Rourke there is a dead heat tie of 50 percent apiece for Trump and O’Rourke. Against other Democrats, Trump fares much better in Texas–against Sanders, Trump leads 51 percent to 49 percent for instance, and against Warren Trump leads 53 percent to 47 percent–but Texas is by no means in the bag for Trump at this stage. Against Harris, Trump leads 54 percent to 46 percent and Trump leads Buttigieg 54 percent to 46 percent.

This particular detail–that O’Rourke performs much better in Texas against Trump than Buttigieg does–could seriously help O’Rourke regain some of the thunder that the South Bend mayor took from him in the past month or so as “Mayor Pete,” as he is known colloquially,” has surged past O’Rourke in the eyes of many in the media and political class.

The head-to-head general election survey between Trump and potential Democrat opponents was also conducted from April 25 to April 28, but with a sample size of 799 registered voters and a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Regarding the more general picture of Trump potentially having troubles in Texas–depending on who the Democrats nominate–Texas GOP chairman James Dickey appeared on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel this past weekend to address this exact point. Dickey and the Texas state GOP have launched a wide-scale effort designed to keep the state red and rebuff efforts by Democrats–a long-term pipe dream in the past but always potentially a looming reality in the future–to flip the state blue in 2020.

“Without our 38 electoral votes no Republican candidate has a path to victory for the foreseeable future,” Dickey said. “That is why we are asking for the support of people around the country.”

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