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Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke trails Joe Biden in a new Texas presidential poll.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke trails Joe Biden in a new Texas presidential poll.
Brian Maschino

Biden Leads O’Rourke, Texas Dems Haven’t Decided in Senate Race, Poll Says

Native son Beto O'Rourke has plenty of catching up to do if he hopes to win his home state's Democratic presidential primary, according to a new poll from Emerson College and The Dallas Morning News. Texas' Democrats would prefer O'Rourke ran for U.S. Senate against John Cornyn rather than president, and have yet to make up their minds in that race, according to the survey.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents to the poll, which has a margin of error of 4.9%, said former vice president Joe Biden was their first choice to represent Democrats in November 2020 against President Donald Trump. O'Rourke received 19% support, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounding out the top five in the poll. The other Texan in the race, former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, received only 1.6% support.

The new poll — conducted, it should be noted, Aug. 1-3, the day of the El Paso Walmart shooting — continues a trend for O'Rourke, who's struggled to find his polling footing since the initial bump he received after launching his campaign in March. Earlier this summer, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones told the Observer that O'Rourke was struggling to find the moderate voice that buoyed him to within three points of Sen. Ted Cruz in their 2018 Senate race.

"A lot of the things that made Beto an attractive candidate against Ted Cruz in 2018, he's discarding by the side of the road as he travels through Iowa and New Hampshire," Jones said. "The idea of being pragmatic and a centrist — the vote on the 'Thin Blue Line Act,' 'I was wrong, I shouldn't have voted with the police,' his position on pipelines, 'I was wrong, I shouldn't have voted with the energy industry.' He's renouncing all the policies that made him a credible centrist for positions on the left. I think the Beto magic is probably gone."

More than half of self-identified Democrats polled for the survey, 51%, think O'Rourke should be running against Cornyn, rather than trying to stand out among nearly two dozen Democratic candidates for president.

Among Democrats surveyed, more than 51% said they were undecided about whom they planned to support for Senate. Former U.S. House candidate MJ Hegar picked up almost 10% support, topping Royce West (8%), Chris Bell (7%) and Amanda Edwards (5%), the three other candidates in the race so far. Nineteen percent of Democrats participating in the poll said they preferred "someone else."

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