The predicted tight race in the Republican runoff for the open US Senate seat in Texas may never appear. According to a new PPP poll on the eve of the election, conservative favorite Ted Cruz has a ten-point lead over Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. If Dewhurst is Texas toast, he can thank Texas tea:
PPP’s final poll of the Republican Senate runoff in Texas finds Ted Cruz opening up a 52-42 lead, an increase from our survey two weeks ago that found him ahead 49-44.
Cruz’s victory is driven by 4 things: the Tea Party, the enthusiasm of his supporters, a generational divide within the Texas Republican ranks, and the lack of regard the party base currently holds for Rick Perry.
Cruz is ahead by a whooping 75-22 margin with Tea Party voters, more than making up for a 56-39 deficit to Dewhurst with voters who don’t consider themselves members of that movement. There has been too much of a tendency to ascribe any Republican primary upset over the last few years to Tea Party voters, but this is one case where it’s well justified.
Dewhurst wins among seniors by a healthy 17-point advantage, 56/39, but that’s where the good news ends. Voter enthusiasm for Cruz is off the charts; he wins both the “very excited” group (by a whopping 30 points) and the “somewhat excited,” with a narrow 49/45 edge. Cruz wins the other two age demos even more handily than Dewhurst wins seniors, with 18-45YOs breaking 60/33 to Cruz and 46-65YOs going 59/35 the same way.
If this holds up in tomorrow’s vote, it will leave a large amount of egg on Rick Perry’s face, while giving Sarah Palin yet another primary-fight triumph. Perry endorsed Dewhurst, putting him at odds with the same Tea Party activists he tried to attract in the Republican presidential race. Palin campaigned for Cruz, and the surge in Cruz’s standings will strengthen her influence within the GOP, at least in big Tea Party states.
If Cruz wins tomorrow’s runoff, he should handily win the open seat left by Kay Bailey Hutchison’s retirement. In fact, Cruz’s strength among younger and more enthusiastic voters practically eliminates the one slim hope that Democrats had in this cycle to steal a Texas seat.