Can Bernie Sanders win the Texas Democrat primary?

The latest polling is out on the Texas Democrat primary. The Texas Lyceum poll was released Wednesday. There hasn’t been a lot of polling in Texas so far so it’s interesting to see what is shaking out now.

The Texas Lyceum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide leadership organization and generally looked upon as a good indication of where the public stands. The focus isn’t so much on party politics but on future leadership, with the business community in mind. In other words, it isn’t known as an organization that polls with a specific tilt to the left or right.

The most interesting finding is in the Democrat primary race. While it is no surprise that Joe Biden is the top-ranked candidate since he’s supposed to be moderate in a field full of socialists, guess who is on his heels? Bernie Sanders, that’s who. Biden leads The Texas Lyceum poll by a mere two points. Biden is at 28% while Sanders is at 26%. The last time a poll was released by the organization was last August. At that time, Texans Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro were still in the race and the field was larger. The results then were Biden had 24% and Sanders, 13%.

The other candidates were Sen. Elizabeth Warren (13%), former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (9%), former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (6%) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (3%). It’s Bernie’s moment apparently.

Since a Lyceum poll in August, when it tested a cavalry charge of two dozen Democrats pursuing the party’s presidential nomination, Sanders has vaulted from fourth place in Texas to a close second.

“Bernie has had a moment here,” said Joshua Blank of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, who is the poll’s research director.

“It’s certainly great timing – even if it is ‘the flavor of the moment’ – because we’re going into Iowa,” Blank said, referring to the first-in-the-nation votes that will be cast in Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday night.

For reference, in the March 1, 2016, Democrat primary election in Texas, Hillary Clinton easily stomped Bernie – 65.2% to 33.2%. Biden is the Hillary in the 2020 Democrat primary. He is supposed to be the one who is looked upon as the candidate who can beat Trump, which is the top goal for Democrat primary voters. So a growing shift from a safe moderate to an avowed socialist in a Texas primary is enough to raise eyebrows.

The Sanders campaign has put in time in Texas. Just yesterday his surrogates were in Houston at The Future of Black America Symposium. This is an annual event put on by The National Newspaper Publishers Association and The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, in partnership with The Women’s Missionary Society and Connectional Lay Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is open to the public and features speakers like political candidates. Mike Bloomberg was a speaker, too. Texas votes on Super Tuesday. Bloomberg is concentrating on Super Tuesday states, not the early voting states, and he is here frequently now. His ads are flooding the airwaves.

The second interesting part of The Texas Lyceum poll is on the general election in November. It’s good news for Trump. He beats all of the top four candidates currently in the race. Bernie is closest to him, though, not Biden and that is a new development. Bloomberg, I’ll note, wasn’t included in the polling since he is a newer entry.

In the general election matchups that were tested, Trump leads Sanders, 50% to 47%; Biden, 51% to 46%; Warren, 52% to 44%; and Buttigieg, 51% to 43%, the poll found.

Though Bloomberg had promised to spend heavily on ads in Texas and other Super Tuesday states by the time pollsters wrote their questions, Blank said Lyceum officials felt uncomfortable “jumping him over other candidates to the front of the list” when he hadn’t actually campaigned for very long.

The margin for error for the head to head comparisons was plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. For the potential Democratic primary voters on who they want to be nominated, the margin of error was plus or minus 4.89 percentage points.

So, yeah, I admit I’m surprised by all this on the Democrat side. Bernie’s moment may or may not last but his trending is good so far. He may find himself able to win the state primary if young voter enthusiasm continues and his support with Hispanic voters continues. Beto O’Rourke hasn’t endorsed anyone yet and if he endorses Bernie, well, that may do it. Despite the fact that Beto keeps losing, there is a real enthusiasm that he unleashed in Democrats which has given them a renewed hope for turning Texas blue. That won’t happen in 2020 but it does help their get- out- the- vote drives and it keeps the grassroots supporters motivated to block walk and send in donations.

As Super Tuesday gets closer, we’ll see where Bloomberg ends up in the mix. As the event yesterday showed, he isn’t just flooding the airwaves, he’s showing up in Texas, too. Besides Houston, he was also in San Antonio to launch Hispanic outreach.