Every time PPP polls Texas the Republican Senate primary gets closer and closer. What was a 29 point lead for David Dewhurst in September has now been cut all the way down to 12 points. Dewhurst is at 38% to 26% for Ted Cruz, 8% for Tom Leppert, and 7% for Craig James.
Cruz's support has increased from 12% to 18% to 26% over our last three polls. Meanwhile Dewhurst has remained stagnant in the 36-41% range. Cruz's name recognition has increased from 29% to 48% with Republican primary voters since January and the change has almost all been positive. His favorability's gone from 15/14 to 31/17. The other candidates have seen just modest gains in name recognition or none at all. Dewhurst's favorability is 47/22, Leppert's is 20/15, and James remains more disliked than popular with GOP voters at 14/21.
Dewhurst's superior name recognition is the main reason he continues to hold a lead of any size over Cruz. Among voters who are familiar with Cruz- whether they have a positive opinion of him or not- Cruz leads Dewhurst 39-34. That suggests that as Cruz's profile continues to increase this race may continue to get closer.
Whoever wins the primary will start out as a pretty strong favorite in the general election. Dewhurst leads by 14-15 points against the main Democratic candidates, 50-35 over Sean Hubbard and 49-35 over Paul Sadler. The Democrats are a little bit closer to Cruz but still each trail him by 10 points- Hubbard is down 43-33 and Sadler is at a 44-34 disadvantage.
Leppert leads both the Democrats by double digits as well- he's up 44-34 on Hubbard and 44-33 on Sadler. The only real chance Democrats have at winning this race is if the unpopular James somehow won the nomination. He leads the Democrats by considerably more narrow margins than the rest of the GOP field- it's just 4 points at 40-36 over Sadler and 6 points at 41-35 over Hubbard.
Why are the Republicans leading? Obviously Texas is a Republican state to begin with and beyond that Dewhurst and Cruz are both peeling off more Democrats than they are losing Republicans, and they have small leads with independents. For a Democrat to win would require winning independents big and getting a good amount of crossover support from GOP voters. Right now neither of those things are happening and the excitement looks like it will be in the GOP primary.
Full results here