A dive into the latest Texas polling shows why Democrats could actually flip this Senate seat

A dive into the latest Texas polling shows why Democrats could actually flip this Senate seat
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark Air Force One Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at El Paso International Airport greeted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The first poll out of Texas since Air Force veteran MJ Hegar won last week's Democratic runoff finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading their matchup 47-38, but it nonetheless contains plenty of good news for Democrats, who are hoping to win their first Senate race in the Lone Star state since 1988.


For starters, Quinnipiac's survey has Joe Biden edging out Donald Trump 45-44, a slight uptick from last month's poll when Trump led 44-43. That suggests that undecided voters in the Senate race, contrary to what you'd usually find in a red state like Texas, lean toward Democrats, a conclusion buttressed by the crosstabs: While self-identified Republicans support Trump 89-6 and Cornyn 88-5—almost identical shares—Democrats back Biden 94-3 but Hegar just 82-6. If she can consolidate Democratic voters who support Biden behind her banner as well, she can start to close that gap.

Hegar is also far less well-known than Cornyn, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002. Cornyn has a 41-24 favorability rating while Hegar's stands at 24-19, meaning fully 56% of voters don't yet have an opinion of her compared to a third for the incumbent. That gives her space to improve her standing as long as she can get her name out. That's always a difficult task in America's second-largest state, but Hegar says she raised $1 million in the week since she secured her party's nomination—a huge surge compared to the $1.7 million she brought in during the second quarter of the year.

Cornyn's relatively low name recognition for someone who's been in office for two decades also stands out, but that, too, likely reflects Texas' vast size and fast-growing population. One notable thing, though, is that Cornyn hasn't crossed 50% in a single poll all cycle long. That's a contrast to his last race in 2014, which he won in a blowout and regularly polled above 50. Cornyn has always tied himself very closely to Trump, so if Biden does indeed carry Texas—as a number of other polls have also suggested he might—that could spell doom for the GOP's hopes of keeping this seat.

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