Bernie Sanders is in the top spot now in Texas according to the latest poll released by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune. Bernie’s having a moment and it’s even showing up in Texas polling.

Since the beginning of the Democrat primary season, Joe Biden has consistently led in Texas polls. His lead has been strong enough that I doubt his campaign thought he would need to put too much effort into campaigning in the state. This is the first poll that shows Biden’s vulnerability in the Lone Star State. Bernie leads Biden by 2 points – 24% to 22%. Granted, that’s not a big lead but it is certainly enough to cause heartburn within Biden’s flailing campaign. If Bernie is ahead in a state that normally favors moderates and conservatives, his current momentum is real.

The last UT/Texas Tribune released was last October. Bernie has doubled his support since then. In that poll, Biden and Elizabeth Warren were at the top. Back then, Robert Francis O’Rourke was still in the primary race and he ranked third in that poll. Michael Bloomberg hadn’t entered the race and he is now in fourth place. Bloomberg is ahead of both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – all three considered the moderates in the race. Andrew Yang, who dropped out after the New Hampshire primary this week, was behind Buttigieg and ahead of Klobuchar.

All of this points to some real trouble for Biden. Sanders and Bloomberg are on the rise while Biden is unable to expand his support and is falling.

UT/TT POLL

Who would get your vote in a Democratic primary today?
Bernie Sanders 24%
Joseph R. Biden 22%
Elizabeth Warren 15%
Michael R. Bloomberg 10%
Pete Buttigieg 7%
Andrew Yang* 6%
Amy Klobuchar 3%
Tom Steyer 3%
Tulsi Gabbard 2%
Others 8%

*Dropped out; name remains on Texas ballot.
Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding. Margin of error = ± 4.09 percentage points.
Source: University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, February 2020
Credit: Anna Novak

The poll shows that overall, Democrat voters have a favorable opinion of all the candidates but Sanders, Biden, and Warren remain the preference. Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg are seen as favorable candidates but are not as well-known to Texas voters. Trust me when I say that soon every voter will be able to identify Michael Bloomberg, thanks to his advertising blitz in the state. In a state as big as Texas, it is impossible for a candidate to depend on traditional retail politics – the battle for the airwaves is critical. Bloomberg jumped into that contest early and has been running television ads in Texas 24/7 for weeks now. In the last couple of days, Bernie Sanders has entered the battle for the airwaves in Texas. I saw several ads for Bernie both Thursday and Friday.

When Texans register to vote, political party affiliation is not declared. Primaries are open to voters of any party affiliation – the voter is asked which ballot they want, Republican or Democrat at the time of voting. This is appealing to the candidates hoping to capture the imagination of Republican voters and Independents. For example, both the Bloomberg and Sanders campaigns have texted me on my cell phone in recent days though I have only ever voted as a Republican in primaries. In other words, the Bloomberg and Sanders campaigns are actively reaching out to all voters, not just concentrating on traditional Democrats. This is the same that Donald Trump did in 2016 and his work to appeal to everyone was a winning formula.

Both Bernie and Trump supporters are loyal and energized. Biden’s campaign is not inspiring by any stretch of the imagination. His whole campaign is centered around the premise that he’s the safe choice, the electable one. That strategy has now flamed out with his dismal performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It looks like he will do poorly in Nevada next so he is counting on South Carolina to save his campaign. Real Clear Politics has Biden up by 5.3% overall in Texas now, with Bernie in second place at 22.7% and Elizabeth Warren at 15%. Bloomberg comes in at fourth place with 11.7%. Warren is listed as a second choice candidate for almost half of the Sanders voters.

Asked about their second choices for the presidential nomination, 48% of Democratic voters who support Sanders listed Warren. Biden’s voters listed Warren (25%) and Bloomberg (24%). Warren supporters’ second choices were Sanders (43%), Biden (15%) and Klobuchar (14%). Biden was the second choice for 28% of Bloomberg’s supporters in the survey, followed by Warren (20%).

There is good news for President Trump in the UT/Texas Tribune poll. Though 52% of those polled said they would not vote to re-elect President Trump, Republican support is at a solid 90% and the responses show he will beat any of the Democrat candidates. Independent voters were against reelection, but less so than Democrat voters – 38% said they would vote to reelect Trump, while 62% said they would vote against him. The poll indicates Trump is underperforming in Texas but would still win the state in November.

This poll is usually pretty reliable, as polls go. You’ll note that registered voters, not likely voters were polled. Likely voters produce a more reliable picture, as a general rule. Here’s the standard disclosure of how the poll was conducted:

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points, and an overall margin of error of +/- 4.09 percentage points for Democratic trial ballots. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.