Despite a viral video defending athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality, national buzz about his former punk rock career, and a slew of positive profiles in major media publications, Rep. Beto O’Rourke trailed GOP Sen. Ted Cruz by nearly double digits in a new poll released Thursday.
Cruz, who is seeking a second term in the Senate, outpaced O’Rourke by a 54-45 margin among 730 likely voters in the state in a new poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
And the 9-point split is the same disparity Quinnipiac found in its last poll for the race, released on Sept. 18.
Pollsters interviewed those who took the survey via landline and cell phone from Oct. 3 through Oct. 9, at the peak and during the aftermath of the debate in the Senate over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
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O’Rourke, the upstart Democrat in the race who has garnered a national profile through savvy media manipulation and by cultivating a young-gun image, appears to have “hit a wall” in his campaign to unseat Cruz, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, said.
“The election is far from over, but Sen. Cruz would have to suffer a major collapse for him to lose,” Brown said. “That is even more unlikely since 97 percent of Cruz voters say they are sure they won’t change their minds.”
O’Rourke edged Cruz among women, 52 percent to 46 percent. But Cruz hammered him among male voters, 62 percent to 37 percent.
And white voters backed Cruz 69 percent to 30 percent, while minority groups heavily favored O’Rourke.
The race, uncharacteristically close in a traditionally solidly red state like Texas, has propelled O’Rourke into the national spotlight.
Country music legend Willie Nelson played a free, campaign-rally style concert for O’Rourke last month.
But national appeal doesn’t count when you’re running in a statewide race.
“O’Rourke may be attracting massive crowds,” Brown said, “but Cruz has a better favorability rating.”
Texas may be slipping from the GOP stronghold it was over the last few decades, but it’s still a reliably red state. President Donald Trump won there over Hillary Clinton by 11 points in 2016.