Quinnipiac: Cruz up nine points on left-wing heartthrob Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race

Hoo boy. These would be great numbers for Cruz under any circumstances, but they’re pure dynamite when you consider that Quinnipiac typically has terrible data for Trump and his party. A nine-point lead here is a very encouraging nine points.

The bad news for Democrats: Their fair-haired boy, Kennedy 2.0, looks to be headed for defeat. And not a just-missed defeat either.

The good news: They’ve got another two months of sunny Beto profiles in glossy magazines to enjoy.

The lesson here, with O’Rourke up four points among independents, is that there are a lot of Republicans in Texas:

When you divide up Texans according to what they say their most important issue is, you get predictable results. The economy? Cruz wins among that group by 34 points, as you’d expect when Republicans are presiding over an economic boom. Health care? That’s O’Rourke — by 64 points. Guns? That’s Cruz, by 37. Immigration? Cruz again, this time by 34. Study that number if you’re of the belief that a surge of Latino voters is going to rise up against Trump’s border policies and wash Cruz away because of it. For all of O’Rourke’s vaunted appeal to Latinos, Cruz is holding his own overall, trailing by just nine.

Here’s the real surprise, though. If O’Rourke has any advantage over Cruz, one would think, it’s personal likability. That has … never been Cruz’s strong suit, shall we say, whereas O’Rourke does have a certain easy, superficial Kennedyesque charm. On basic favorability, the old-fashioned “who would you rather have a beer with?” metric, you might expect Beto to prevail, especially since he’s far less well known than Cruz is. But that’s not what you see in Quinnipiac’s data. Cruz stands at 52/43 in favorability. O’Rourke?

Indies like him, Dems adore him, but it looks like the word is out among Republicans that Beto is a true-blue liberal and they’re reacting accordingly. Even in a red state where Trump’s approval is an ominously tepid 49/49, O’Rourke’s not going to win a race where his opponent is at 54 percent right now and he himself is only even in favorability. If you’re a Democrat clinging to Betomania, your only hope is to declare this poll an outlier. Which it may be! RCP hasn’t seen a poll with Cruz up nine in more than two months. Maybe Quinnipiac got a bad sample and the race is still very tight.

But it’s also possible that as voters have begun to pay closer attention to O’Rourke with Election Day approaching and the Betomania hype getting louder, they’ve started feeling alienated by his unapologetic leftism. Cruz’s decision to start flogging O’Rourke for standing up for the rights of NFL players to kneel during the anthem looks shrewd in that context. It’s an exceedingly minor issue compared to health care or the economy but it’s an effective proxy issue for a pol’s worldview. You can make a fairly sound guess about the basket of policies a candidate is likely to support based on his stance on the NFL protests. And of course, what you think about kneeling during the anthem reflects one’s idea of patriotism. If you believe it’s unpatriotic, your opinion of a pol who supports it won’t stop at mere disagreement. Chances are it’ll bleed over into active dislike. A disliked Democrat ain’t winning in Texas.

Silver lining for Beto, though: As Stephen Miller says, he’s not really running for Senate anymore. It’s gravy if he wins, but he’s made enough of an impression on the left that they’ve started sizing him up as The New Obama.

Here’s Cruz’s latest play to make Texans dislike O’Rourke, by the way. Even as a cynical “just win, baby” measure in a tight Senate race, this is something else:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) for saying a Dallas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in his own apartment should be fired, adding that he wished his challenger and other Democrats “weren’t so quick to always blame the police officer.”

“It’s possible what happened was a horrifying and horrific misunderstanding, or it may be something else,” Cruz told Fox 26 Houston in an interview aired on Sunday. “And that’s why we have a legal justice system, to actually learn what the facts are and learn what happened. I wish Beto O’Rourke and Democrats weren’t so quick to always blame the police officer, always attack the police officer.”

He’s talking about the Botham Jean case, of course, in which a Dallas cop walked into the wrong apartment and shot a perfectly innocent man dead, allegedly believing it to be her own apartment and Jean to be a burglar. And that’s the best-case scenario for what happened, the self-serving version that the cop herself told police at the scene. You don’t have to be some sort of ultra-left cop-hater to think that someone capable of killing a man because she couldn’t find her own door in an apartment building lacks the judgment to be a police officer, whether or not she’s committed a criminal offense. (Which she very likely has.) But this is Cruz doubling down on his NFL protest message against O’Rourke: He’s a radical leftist, not “one of us.” He may well be a radical leftist. But not because he thinks the cop who shot Jean should find a new line of work.