Republican Senator Ted Cruz has never lost a race within his home state of Texas, but polling from within the Lone Star State, suggests he potentially could soon.
A newly released poll that was taken between May 10 to 21 from the University of Texas at Tyler shows Cruz currently polling within single-digits of Democratic challenger Colin Allred, setting the stage for a showdown similar to Cruz’s tough 2018 reelection battle against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, whom Cruz defeated by less than 3 points.
Since announcing his bid on May 3, Allred—a former NFL linebacker turned-congressman in a liberal corner of Dallas’ suburbs—has surged in national recognition, netting his campaign $2 million in donations within the first 36 hours of his campaign launch. While Allred is an underdog in a state that has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976, polling indicates he could at least have a shot as senator.
Cruz, according to the UT-Tyler poll, is highly polarizing, with polling showing the percentage of people who find him “highly unfavorable” 16 points higher than those who find him “very favorable.”
Meanwhile, just 4 percent of Texans who were polled said they “don’t know enough” about Cruz to judge him, reflecting a long political career in the state that began two decades ago after then-Attorney General Greg Abbott named Cruz to be Texas’ solicitor general.
Allred, who after football received his law degree and later, a job in the Obama administration, is less well-known, with nearly half of the UT-Tyler poll’s 1,413 respondents saying they did not have enough information about him to make a judgement.
If the two men were to meet today in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, roughly 37 percent of respondents said they would support Allred in the general election against 42 percent for Cruz, with approximately 14 percent of the electorate still undecided roughly a year-and-a-half until Election Day. The UT-Tyler poll had a 3 percent error of margin.
While polling within 5 points of Cruz, another poll from the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation that was published last week found the Texas senator with a more comfortable 7-point lead—a number in line with the UT-Tyler poll’s margin of error. Democrats also suffer from a natural disadvantage in Texas, with Republicans outperforming Democrats in the state in presidential election years at-or-near double-digit margins in most years.
But history has also shown the right Democratic candidate—whom some believe Allred to be—can exceed the state’s fundamentals. During O’Rourke’s 2018 bid, polls conducted by Siena College and Quinnipiac University weeks before the election estimated O’Rourke losing to Cruz by near double-digits, only for him to lose within 3 points.
Newsweek reached out to Cruz’s campaign via email for comment.
In 2020, pollsters sought to learn from their mistakes, with reputable polls of the state by pollsters like Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell showing Democrat Mary Jennings Hegar polling within as few as 4 points of Republican incumbent John Cornyn in that year’s Senate race.
Hegar would go on to lose that year’s election by nearly 10 points, with The Texas Tribune reporting at the time that Cornyn lead his Democratic opponent by 8 percentage points, 52.6 percent to 45 percent.