Is the Cruz/O'Rourke Senate race tightening?

Roll Call says yes — based on a single poll from Quinnipiac that’s right in line with most of the other polls lately. Texas was a six-point race yesterday in most surveys, it looks to be about a six-point race today.

Quinnipiac has it 51/46. Whether that constitutes “tightening” or not depends entirely on your starting point in measuring. The last Quinnipiac poll, taken during the first week of October, had Cruz by nine points. Tightening! But six weeks ago, the polling average had Cruz’s lead down to 3.2 points. His lead is wider than that now in every recent poll taken of the state, including the new one from Quinnipiac. Not tightening! If you go back to mid-August, meanwhile, Cruz’s average lead at the time was nearly identical to his average lead today. Total stasis!

Despite the bouncing numbers, the truth appears straightforward. Cruz’s support seemed weak in late August because Texas voters weren’t paying much attention to politics at the moment and hadn’t taken a good look yet at O’Rourke. Then they tuned into the race, didn’t like what they saw in the Democrat, and Cruz’s lead firmed up; the Kavanaugh effect added a bit of extra momentum for him at the start of this month but that looks to have dissipated now, returning us to a six-point status quo. The size of Cruz’s lead isn’t even the most important number in the race at this point, frankly. There are two others of greater significance. Quinnipiac identifies one:

Men back the Republican 56 – 39 percent, as women go Democratic 52 – 45 percent. White voters back Cruz 67 – 30 percent. O’Rourke leads 86 – 12 percent among black voters and 60 – 36 percent among Hispanic voters.

Only 3 percent of Texas likely voters remain undecided and only 2 percent of likely voters who name a U.S. Senate candidate say they might change their mind in the next eight days.

Undecideds are evaporating, which means Beto’s running out of voters. That’s one key number. The other you’ll find in Cruz’s column here. These are the last five polls of Texas:

The incumbent is at 50 percent or better in every last one. And in the new Quinnipiac data, only two percent of his and O’Rourke’s current supporters say they might change their minds before Election Day. Essentially Beto needs to hold onto all of his own supporters, flip all of the shaky ones on Cruz’s side, and clean up among the remaining three percent of true undecideds to pull this off. The only cause for hope among Democrats in all of that is the fact that the 46 percent he scored in Quinnipiac today is his single best number of the campaign to date. But even that’s not surprising: You’d expect O’Rourke to inch a tiny bit higher as undecideds make up their minds. There’s no reason (yet) to see it as evidence of any meaningful last-minute trend.

Two silver linings for Beto and Betomaniacs. One: Even if he loses, as he almost certainly will, a close loss will make it that much easier for him to run for president in 2020. “If his progressive message can almost beat Cruz in a red state like Texas,” supporters will say, “it can certainly beat Trump nationally.” The final margin won’t matter to Cruz but it will to O’Rourke. Two: There’s a small but nonzero chance that something will happen to damage Republican chances in the next 10 days. In fact…

If there’s a backlash against Trump for how he handled the past week of failed mail-bombings and successful synagogue shootings, that could make election night much sweatier for Republicans. Cruz has enough of a lead that he’s probably immune from it, but whether the same is true of Dean Heller and Josh Hawley and Martha McSally, I don’t know.