New poll: Biden leads O'Rourke and Trump... in Texas

I know. It’s very early in the process. The Emerson College poll released Monday is the most recent to point out the political atmosphere in Texas, a state Democrats are desperately hoping to win in 2020. So, how is the leading candidate according to all polls so far, Joe Biden, looking in Texas?

Good old Joe is doing pretty well. He’s only officially been in the race for five days yet he’s been running much longer, truth be told. None of the other candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, have been able to knock him out of first place in the polls. So, when I read about the Emerson College poll Monday night, I raised an eyebrow when I read it shows a slight lead for Biden in Texas. In a match-up against Beto O’Rourke, Biden squeaks out a 23% to 22% victory. It should be noted that the poll shows a margin of error of 5.3 percentage points.

There is no denying that Texan Beto O’Rourke is floundering across the country. He started off as a rock star among Democrat voters and the press enjoyed playing up his alleged “Kennedyesque” qualities. (Well, he’s got the drunk driving thing covered.) Alas, when regular voters in the midwest got a good look at him, his rise to the top tier of candidates stalled. The novelty of counter-jumping and exaggerated arm-flailing grows old quickly. Yet this is Texas and the epicenter of Betomania.

“It looks like Beto O’Rourke does not have Texas locked up,” Spencer Kimball, director of the Emerson Poll by Emerson College in Boston, said in a statement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was the only other candidate in the poll topping 10%, polling third at 17%.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., received 8% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts received 7%. Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor, polled at only 4% of support in his home state.

It’s only a matter of time before Julian Castro, the other Texan in the race, drops out and markets himself as potentially the first Latino vice-president. Texas Democrats haven’t even paid much attention to his candidacy.

According to Real Clear Politics, O’Rourke is number six in the polls. Meanwhile, it’s been clear from the time of Joe Biden’s video announcing his candidacy that Biden has skipped the Democrat primary, choosing instead to run directly against President Trump. How is Trump doing in Texas against Biden? It turns out that match-up is also like the one between Biden and O’Rourke. Biden edges out Trump 50% to 49%. It’s another dead heat. You can see a Trump vs. Beto match-up ties at 50% for each candidate.

In general election matchups, Trump is in statistical dead heats with four of the top six Democratic opponents and leads the other two. In a Donald Trump versus Joe Biden matchup, the two are almost exactly even at 50% for Biden and 49% for Trump. Beto O’Rourke versus Trump is very similar, with 50% going to Beto and 50% supporting Trump. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the other Democrats within the margin, with Trump receiving 51% to Sanders’ 49% and Trump leading Warren 53% to 47%. The rest fall outside of the margin, with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg each receiving 46% support to Trump’s 54%.

President Trump has a 43% approval rating nationally according to Real Clear Politics. According to Morning Consult, his approval rating in Texas has dropped 16 percentage points since his election.

One complaint about Beto is that he’s failed to put forth actual policy and focused on vague talking points when he’s asked about one issue or another on the campaign trail. Monday he produced his plan to fight climate change. It includes a $5 trillion price tag and he plans to (wait for it) raise taxes on corporations and the wealthiest of Americans. This is my shocked face. Something that caught my attention is the fact that he is now doing a flip-flop on oil and gas drilling. Now that everyone on the left must bow to the demands of environmentalists hoping to rid the world of fossil fuels, which is impossible, Beto must go along. In this case, he’s following the lead of Elizabeth Warren who calls for a ban on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands. He calls for an end to tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, too. Sure, that will play well in Texas.

The plan also puts an emphasis on protecting federal lands, setting a more ambitious zero-emissions target on them — 2030 — while banning new fossil fuel leases on them. One of O’Rourke’s rivals, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, proposed a moratorium on new leases earlier this month. After saying last week that he was willing to consider such a ban, O’Rourke threw his support behind it at a rally Sunday in San Francisco where he offered a preview of his forthcoming plan.

“Every single purchasing decision, leasing decision, that the federal government makes, should include the cost of pollution and the cost to our climate,” O’Rourke said. “No more leases on federal lands for oil and gas drilling, and let’s make sure those leases that are enforced right now are changed to reflect the true cost in the royalties that are paid.”

While Beto plays catch-up on policy initiatives, one fellow candidate pushed back about his climate change dream. Jay Inslee, running on the sole issue of climate change, says O’Rourke has some ‘splaining to do. During his days in Congress, O’Rourke voted in favor of oil and gas drilling, you know.

O’Rourke isn’t completely stupid. He realized he couldn’t represent Texas, even as a Democrat, without promoting opportunities for oil and gas companies. Democrats love to make Big Oil the boogeyman in every environmental argument but the fact is that all the big companies lead the way in researching new technology and methods of producing energy as enviro-friendly as possible.

O’Rourke has long talked about climate change as one of the most urgent threats facing the country, but as he has become a national figure, his commitment to the cause has been questioned by some on the left. He recently expressed regret for some of his votes in Congress on the issue, specifically reversing his support in 2016 for legislation that left the door open to using federal money to study oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where offshore drilling is mostly off limits.

All of this is interesting but we are still a long way from the primary elections, much less Election Day 2020. Is Texas going blue in the next presidential election? I’m not at all convinced of that.