Two weeks ago, Texas Democrats proclaimed themselves “upbeat” about Robert Francis O’Rourke’s chances of unseating Gov. Greg Abbott in November. Since then, Beto has gone full bore on gun control, called a supporter a ‘motherf****r‘ for laughing at his attempt to mimic a combat stance, and has begun spending $1 million in cash from George Soros.
According to a new poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, Abbott has a 7-point cushion over O’Rourke, unchanged from a similar survey in May.
The poll, conducted Aug. 1-7, surveyed 1,384 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Abbott’s not in a great position for an incumbent, but not horrible either at 46/39. O’Rourke, on the other hand, shows little sign of being a “closer,” as Texas Democrats tried to argue two weeks ago. He’s not even at 40% in the second DMN-commissioned poll in a row. That would be a bad position for a relatively unknown challenger this close to the actual vote, but Beto has a national brand and tons of media exposure. And it’s not moving the needle.
Why? James Carville could explain it for Democrats — and keeps trying:
Powering the governor’s lead is his handling of the Texas economy, with 53% favoring his stewardship and 41% who disapprove. Only 9% blamed Abbott or Texas lawmakers for inflation, while 48% blamed higher costs for goods and services on President Joe Biden.
“Regardless of the many things that are happening, Abbott’s standing and trust in the economy is what’s holding that lead,” said Mark Owens, a political scientist at UT-Tyler and director of the poll.
However, this is a measure of registered voters rather than likely voters. What happens when the DMN-UT pollsters apply a likely-voter filter? Suddenly, Abbott’s lead grows to ten points:
The “certain to vote” responses make this look like Abbott’s the closer, and for good reason. Abbott’s holding a better percentage of his own party than Beto does, which in a state with a large GOP advantage is actually fairly impressive. Surprisingly, Abbott has a narrow edge among women and is nearly equal among Latinos, plus his 21% of the black vote has to be very worrisome for Democrats in down-ballot races. Abbott has a distinct advantage among parents too.
Let’s not forget, too, that the likely-voter models for pollsters this year may well not capture the unique political environment of 2022. It has been more than 40 years since voters went to the polls with inflation at this level and a president this unpopular in the White House. That will almost certainly lead to a significantly different turnout model than in 2018, and likely 2014 and 2010 as well.
With that in mind, Beto’s not standing in place. He’s losing ground. And deservedly, too.