(EDITOR’S NOTE, 8/28/18, 12:10 PM ET: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1971. Lloyd Bentsen, the last Democratic senator from Texas, was elected in 1970, and re-elected in 1976, 1982, and 1988. We have corrected the error.)
Texas hasn’t had a Democrat in the U.S. Senate for decades. But Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) may just pull off that feat if polling trends continue.
A new poll conducted by Emerson College showed that Beto O’Rourke is surging in popularity, and is now within the margin of error with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is running for a second term.
According to Emerson’s poll of 550 registered voters, 38 percent said they would vote for Sen. Cruz in November, while 37 percent said they would cast a ballot for Beto O’Rourke. 21 percent were still undecided, and the other four percent said they would vote for a candidate other than the Democratic and Republican nominees. The margin of error is 4.4 percent, meaning the race is essentially a toss-up, according to Monday’s Emerson poll.
RealClearPolitics’ aggregation of all polling in the Texas Senate race thus far shows Cruz ahead in all of them, though Monday’s poll shows a trend of those leads gradually dwindling as November draws closer. Cruz led by as much as 10 points in a June CBS/YouGov poll conducted in June, and the most recent poll prior to the Emerson College poll had Cruz up by just four points. The Cook Political Report’s decision to change its assessment of the Texas Senate race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” also contributed to O’Rourke’s surge this summer.
In addition to surging in polls, Beto O’Rourke is also leading Ted Cruz in fundraising. The most recent fundraising totals show O’Rourke with an astonishing $10.4 million lead over Cruz, according to Federal Election Commission records. The money is likely going to keep coming in for O’Rourke, who recently went viral in a video explaining why NFL players kneeling during the national anthem was patriotic. That video has been viewed almost 18 million times on Twitter.
‘I can think of nothing more American.’ — Beto O'Rourke — the man taking on Ted Cruz — brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful pic.twitter.com/bEqOAYpxEL
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 21, 2018
The Texas Senate race is likely to be a nail-biter — not only due to Beto O’Rourke’s strong fundraising and polling, but because of Republican attempts to make it harder for likely Democrats to vote. As Grit Post recently reported, roughly 4,000 voters in Harris County, Texas, which houses Houston (a Democratic stronghold) had their residency challenged by a Republican activist.
Assuming voters even opened the letter the county sent them, they have just 30 days to respond in writing confirming that they live at that specific address, or they’ll be forced to vote with a provisional ballot, which is not guaranteed to be counted. This November’s Senate election may very well be decided by just 4,000 votes or less, and O’Rourke will need a strong turnout in Harris County if he hopes to pull off the historic upset.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.