Polls show tightening in Cruz-O'Rourke U.S. Senate race in Texas

Two new polls released on Wednesday show the race for U.S. Senate between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke is tightening.

A Texas Lyceum poll of likely voters found the incumbent GOP senator ahead by just two points over his Democratic challenger – 41 for Cruz and 39 for O’Rourke with 19 percent still undecided about three months away from November’s midterm election. The results are well within the poll’s 4.67 percent margin of error.

“O’Rourke continues to nip at Cruz’s heels, but it’s a long way to go until Election Day,” said Josh Blank, Lyceum Poll Research Director. “If this race looks different than the rest, that’s probably because it is a strong Democratic challenger raising prolific sums of money and tons of earned media.”

The Lyceum poll is the closest any poll of Texas voters has showed the U.S. Senate race so far in 2018.

A second poll from Quinnipiac University also showed a single-digit race: Cruz 49 and O’Rourke 43.

The six-point lead for Cruz in the Quinnipiac poll was down from the 11-point lead Cruz had in the same poll in May.

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a slight, by no means overwhelming, lead. Congressman Beto O'Rourke has done a good job making the race competitive. With three months until Election Day, he is clearly in contention,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll.

O’Rourke’s campaign has generated enthusiasm among Texas Democrats, who have helped him fundraise more than $14 million. Cruz has about $10 million on hand.

O’Rourke has visited all 254 counties in Texas and just began another statewide barnstorming tour during the August congressional recess.

That said, Texas has not elected a Democratic candidate to a statewide office in more than two decades.

The Texas Lyceum poll surveyed 806 registered voters across Texas from July 9-25. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,118 Texas voters across the state from July 26-31 and had a margin of error of (+/- 3.5).

SMU Political Science Associate Professor Matthew Wilson says the poll numbers are closer than many expected at the start of the race.

“It seems pretty consistent now, in all of the polling, that Ted Cruz faces a real race,” Wilson said.

Already, there is criticism of the polls. One GOP pollster and former Cruz campaign staffer complained the methodology of both polls aren’t a good sample of who will show up to polls this fall. But Wilson says multiple polls do paint a picture.

“Don’t take any one poll as gospel. But if you look at the totality of the polls, it’s pretty clear that this race has gotten closer,” Wilson said. “Maybe it’s not a two-point race. Maybe it’s not a three-point race. But it’s a single digit race the polls are pretty consistent on that score.”

Cruz is clearly gearing up for a fight. Shortly before his campaign in Dallas this week, his team announced he'll challenge O'Rourke to five debates. O'Rourke wanted six.

Wilson believes Cruz thinks he'll have an advantage is the debates.

“He believes he has a policy knowledge advantage over O'Rourke,” the professor said. “I think he really believes he can benefit from a series of debates.”

The Dallas Morning News caught up with Cruz at the senate on Wednesday. He told the news the far left is energized and angry and "we are taking the campaign very seriously."