PPP's first poll of the Texas Senate runoff finds Ted Cruz with a surprising 49-44 lead and a much more enthusiastic cadre of supporters than former front runner David Dewhurst.
Cruz's lead expands to a whooping 59-36 margin over Dewhurst among voters who describe themselves as 'very excited' about voting in the election. The lower turnout is, the better Cruz's chances will be. Dewhurst leads 51-43 with 'somewhat excited' voters and 50-36 with those who say they are 'not that excited.' The big question is whether those less enthused folks will actually bother to turn out or not.
This race is one of the most stark examples of the Tea Party movement propelling a candidate that we've seen to date. 40% of voters identify themselves as members of that movement and Cruz has a 71-26 advantage with them. Dewhurst leads 57-34 with non-Tea Partiers, and they are 50% of the electorate, but it's not nearly enough to drown out Cruz's advantage with that group.
Texas is also an exceptionally rare state where Hispanic voters might be the difference maker in a Republican primary. Cruz has a 78-19 advantage with them. Other groups that give Cruz large leads are men (55-38), folks describing themselves as 'very conservative' (61-34), Evangelicals (50-42), and middle aged voters (54-40).
The large name recognition advantage Dewhurst has enjoyed throughout the campaign has pretty much disappeared. 85% of runoff voters have an opinion about him, and Cruz is not far behind at 81%. We frequently found in our earlier polling that Cruz was winning with voters who knew him, but that he was losing overall because of the name recognition gap. That's not a problem anymore. Cruz's net favorability of +31 (56/25) is better than Dewhurst's +19 (52/33). Since our final pre primary poll Cruz's net fav has improved by 25 points, while Dewhurst's has declined by 17.
Runoff elections are notoriously difficult to poll so Dewhurst shouldn't be written off. But the fact that Cruz is ahead overall and up by even more with the folks most likely to vote is a pretty bad sign for his prospects.
Full results here