PPP's final poll of the Republican Senate runoff in Texas finds Ted Cruz opening up a 52-42 lead, an increase from our survey two weeks ago that found him ahead 49-44.
Cruz's victory is driven by 4 things: the Tea Party, the enthusiasm of his supporters, a generational divide within the Texas Republican ranks, and the lack of regard the party base currently holds for Rick Perry.
Cruz is ahead by a whooping 75-22 margin with Tea Party voters, more than making up for a 56-39 deficit to Dewhurst with voters who don't consider themselves members of that movement. There has been too much of a tendency to ascribe any Republican primary upset over the last few years to Tea Party voters, but this is one case where it's well justified.
Cruz has a 63-33 advantage with voters who describe themselves as 'very excited' about voting in Tuesday's runoff election. He also has a 49-45 advantage with those describing themselves as 'somewhat excited.' The only reason this race is even remotely competitive is Dewhurst's 59-31 lead with voter who say they're 'not that excited' about voting. It's an open question whether those folks will really show up and if they don't it's possible Cruz could end up winning by closer t0 20 points.
The greater excitement among Cruz voters can also be measured by their eagerness to get out and cast their ballots during the early voting period. Cruz leads 55-40 among those who say they've already voted, so Dewhurst will likely need a huge advantage among election day voters to overcome the deficit. But Cruz has a 49-44 lead with those who have yet to vote too.
Cruz's likely victory Tuesday is also indicative of a generational gap within the Texas Republican ranks. Dewhurst leads handily with seniors, 56-39. But he's getting destroyed with younger voters, trailing 60-33 with those between 18 and 45 and 59-35 with those in the 46-65 age range.
Finally this is a story of surrogates and quite possibly a deep repudiation of Rick Perry. By a 31/24 margin voters say they're more likely to vote for a candidate backed by Sarah Palin, who gave her support to Cruz. Only 16% of voters though say they're more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Perry, as Dewhurst was, to 35% who consider it a negative. That's indicative of Perry's diminished political standing in Texas after his failed Presidential bid, and if Cruz really does end up winning big on Tuesday it raises questions about whether he would be able to survive a strong Republican primary challenge in 2014. In April we found him leading AG Greg Abbott 50-34 in a hypothetical GOP contest, weak numbers for someone who's been Governor for over a decade.
Runoffs are unpredictable and it still seems possible that Dewhurst could win on Tuesday, but for now it looks like all the momentum since the primary has gone in Ted Cruz's direction.
Full results here