Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is currently running four points ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the 2018 Texas Senate election – 35%-31%, according to a just released poll. I would not get too excited by these numbers. It’s very early. And those are incredibly low numbers for both candidates. That’s a huge number of undecideds.
These numbers look much less like “Texas is finally turning blue” than “people really don’t like Ted Cruz,” which makes perfect sense given that it’s Ted Cruz. It’s possible the pollster’s (Texas Lyceum) questions themselves drove up undecideds – a point we’ll get too in a moment. But an incumbent Senator, a Republican from a very Republican state, pulling only 31% support seems almost unbelievably bad.
The Lieutenant Governor’s race has similar low numbers. So it’s likely to be the structure of the questions, at least in large part. The poll has the options of candidate A, candidate B, don’t know and then “haven’t thought enough about it.” That fourth option must be driving down the numbers. But Ted Cruz is an extremely visible and well-known public figure, as well as being extremely polarizing.
What more is there to think about?
Cruz has the conservativeness of the state heavily in his favor. But he’s personally unpopular enough that he’s definitely vulnerable if he gets the right challenger and it ends up being a bad year for Republicans. Perhaps another way to put this is that Ted Cruz looks more than unpopular enough to lose reelection. But unless he’s knocked out in the primary, which doesn’t seem likely, he’d have to be knocked out by a Democrat. And partisan identification is likely to be enough to save him.