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New Poll Gives Democrats a Lot to Be Excited About in Texas

Beto O'Rourke with a different mic.
Beto O'Rourke with a different mic.
Brian Maschino

For the moment, at least, Texas sure does look a lot like a purple state. According to a poll from Quinnipiac University released Wednesday, President Donald Trump would have a significant fight on his hands with many of the top challengers for the Democratic nomination.

Digging into the poll, the first thing that stands out is that the president's job approval in Texas is actually under water. Forty-nine percent of those who responded to the survey said they disapproved of the way Trump is doing his job. Only 48% said they approved of the way Trump was handling his gig.

Trump is doing significantly worse with Texas voters than both of the state's senators. Respondents to the poll support how Ted Cruz is doing his job 50% to 42%, while a 44% to 33% plurality supported John Cornyn's job performance.

Julian Castro was 40 years old in 2014 when he took over HUD for President Barack Obama.
Julian Castro was 40 years old in 2014 when he took over HUD for President Barack Obama.
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Texans' lack of Trump love is reflected in a series of hypothetical matchups between the president and top Democratic hopefuls. Former Vice President Joe Biden would beat Trump in Texas, if the 2020 election were held today and the poll is correct, 48% to 44%. Bernie Sanders (44% to 47%), Elizabeth Warren (45% to 46%), Kamala Harris (43% to 47%), Pete Buttigieg (44% to 46%), Beto O'Rourke (45% to 48%) and Julian Castro (43% to 46%) are all within the 3.4% margin of error in their hypothetical battles with the president.

As you might expect from the matchup numbers, Biden leads the Democratic field in Texas with 30% support, followed by O'Rourke at 16%, Sanders at 15% and Warren at 11%. The remaining 18 candidates included in the survey failed to crack 5%.

"The numbers are good for Vice President Joseph Biden, who dominates the field in a Democratic primary and has the best showing in a head-to-head matchup against President Donald Trump," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said Wednesday. "In historically red-leaning Texas, the report for the rest of the Democratic field is not so bad either, which could spell trouble for President Trump. It is the largest state in the country with a Republican edge."

It's worth noting, too, that 60% of Democrats polled say they would rather O'Rourke run for senate against Cornyn than stay in the presidential race.

The scenario suggested by the early polling, that 2020 could be at least as good a year for Texas Democrats as 2018, could have deep implications for Texas' state politics as well.

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"I think we're going to see a very strong national push among Democrats to try to flip the Texas House," Rice University political scientist Mark Jones says. "I think politically, that's going to be the focal point. You'll see national Democrats come in for some of our U.S. House seats — that's normal — where I think we're going to see something that's less normal is national Democrats investing in somewhere between 10-20 Texas House seats."

The key to Democrats' chances of taking back the state House is getting more of the same from the president, along with national Democrats nominating a candidate capable of having coattails in Texas, according to Jones.

"If Donald Trump continues to pull the Republican Party down and the Democrats nominate a really strong centrist candidate and the economy begins to decline — throw in a few bad races by some Texas House members and perhaps nominating weak candidates in some of the vulnerable Democratic seats, we could see (a Democratic majority in the Texas House)," Jones says.

Jones gives the potential takeover — which would require Democrats pick up nine seats in 2020 — a 1-in-5 possibility. It's a long shot, but polls like Wednesday's make it look like an attractive bet.

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