By Jack Fink | Geoff Petrulis | CBS 11By Jack Fink

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The path to reelection for Senator Ted Cruz R-TX may not be the walk in the park one would expect for a Republican in Texas politics. That according to the latest CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies Poll released Wednesday. Cruz is running against Democrat challenger, Congressman Beto O’Rourke D-El Paso.

Data also shows that both President Donald Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott appear to enjoy broad support from Texans, especially Republicans.

Likely voters in Texas were asked who they would vote for if the election for U.S. Senate were held today. While Cruz is ahead in the poll with only four points separating him from O’Rourke, the result is a statistical tie – within the margin of error of 4.3%. Of all likely voters in Texas surveyed, 46% of respondents said they would vote for Ted Cruz while 42% said they would vote for O’Rourke.

01 cruz orourke1 Tighter Than It Should Be: Cruz Clings To Small Lead In CBS11 Poll, While Abbott Enjoys Wide Margin

“Nearly 21% of voters do not have an opinion of Congressman O’Rourke,” said Brian Graham, Managing Partner of Dixie Strategies. “This is problematic as Senator Cruz can easily define him and capture those undecided voters.”

The poll which included 519 likely voters in Texas shows Cruz currently has a favorable rating of 52% compared to O’Rourke’s 45%.

“Senator Cruz is in a race that is tighter than it should be, considering Texas is a conservative state,” said Graham. “While Cruz is popular among Republicans, he is not so with Democrats. He also needs to improve his numbers among voters with no party affiliation.”

Graham said if Cruz wants to widen his lead over O’Rourke, he will have to “define him” by running a number of negative ads against him.

Graham said he thinks that once the campaign heats up in Texas, the gap between Cruz and O’Rourke will likely widen. But he also said that Cruz will have to ‘define’ O’Rourke. Graham thinks Cruz may have to run a number of negative ads if the incumbent expects to increase his lead over O’Rourke.

Of independent voters – those voters with no party affiliation (NPA) – 53% viewed Cruz unfavorably while 38% viewed O’Rourke unfavorably.

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Graham said gaining the independent vote could present a challenge for Cruz.

But an expected visit to the state of Texas by President Trump could give the Cruz campaign a shot in the arm.

“The President is doing relatively well in Texas, compared to his national numbers,” said Graham. “His approval with Republicans, particularly his very favorable numbers are especially impressive. Meanwhile his very unfavorable numbers with Democrats are also something to note.”

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According to the poll, 91% of Republican voters surveyed view President Trump favorably. Among all Texas voters, Mr. Trump enjoys a 51% favorability rating. Conversely, 84% of Democrat respondents said they view the President unfavorably.

Graham said this data reflects why a Trump rally can mean a lot for Cruz. “His popularity with Republicans is precisely why the President’s endorsement in Republican primaries is so potent,” said Graham.

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Back in August, Trump tweeted that he planned to visit Texas to stump for Cruz. “I will be doing a major rally for Senator Ted Cruz in October. I’m picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find. As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement…”

According to the data, President Trump’s favorability is divided sharply along party lines but most have made up their minds about what they think. Only about 3% are undecided regarding whether they find President Trump favorable or unfavorable.

10 trump opinion republican 21 Tighter Than It Should Be: Cruz Clings To Small Lead In CBS11 Poll, While Abbott Enjoys Wide Margin

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Governor Abbott – just like the President – has strong support among Texas voters and particularly those of his own party.

When Texas voters were asked if the election were held today, for whom would you vote, 53% said they would vote for Abbott while 34% said they would vote for his challenger – former Dallas County Sheriff and Democrat Lupe Valdez. Of Republican voters, 92% said they would vote for Abbott. Of Democrat voters, 76% said they would vote for Valdez – with more than 15% of Democrats still undecided.

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“Governor Abbott is clearly popular, and is leading the race by a wide margin,” said Graham. “The Governor’s overall popularity is enviable, while Sheriff Valdez is widely unknown statewide. However, even in the DFW market, where Sheriff Valdez is known, she loses in a head to head matchup with Abbott by 30 points.”

When asked their opinion of Abbott, more than 60% of likely voters said they view the Governor favorably. Among Republican likely voters, 94% said they view the Governor favorably while 53% of Democrats said they view Valdez favorably.

Results – Click/Swipe left to scroll Gov. Results

When asked about their opinion of Valdez, 41% of likely voters were still undecided. According to Graham, the high level of undecided responses could indicate that the candidate may be having trouble getting her message out. Comparing the amount of money each gubernatorial candidate has to spend in the upcoming election; Graham thinks it may be tough for Valdez to overtake Abbott.

According to documents filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, at the end of July, Abbott had nearly $29 million in his campaign account. That was after setting aside $16 million for television ads. Records show Valdez had about $222,000 in her campaign account at the same time this year.

Likely voters in Texas were also asked about how they would vote in the races for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Land Commissioner if those contests were held today. While all GOP candidates had leads over their challengers, none garnered more than 46% overall.

“In the races for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Land Commissioner, the incumbents look to have a solid lead,” said Graham. “Unless these Republicans are vastly out-financed or face a scandal, they should maintain their leads.”

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, 45% of likely voters in Texas said they would vote for incumbent Dan Patrick with 39% saying they would vote for Democrat challenger Houston businessman Mike Collier.

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Mirroring those results, in the race for Attorney General, 45% of likely voters in Texas also said they would vote for incumbent Ken Paxton with 39% also saying they would vote for challenger, Democrat and former law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Justin Nelson.

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In the race for Land Commissioner, 46% of likely voters in Texas said they would vote for incumbent George P. Bush with 30% saying they would vote for Democrat challenger and Energy Lawyer, Miguel Suazo.

22 bush suazo1 Tighter Than It Should Be: Cruz Clings To Small Lead In CBS11 Poll, While Abbott Enjoys Wide Margin

Likely voters in Texas were also asked which issues were most important to them.

“Regarding issues this election, it is clear that Democrats are very concerned with healthcare while Republicans are concerned with illegal immigration and border security,” said Graham.

Of likely voters in Texas, 46% of Democrats said healthcare was the most important issue to them while 60% of Republicans said illegal immigration and border security was the most important issue to them.

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“We can see these issues play out on the national stage as President Obama’s signature issue was healthcare, while President Trump’s signature issue has been border security and illegal immigration,” Graham continued. “The strong economy likely is a reason why this issue rates lower than it normally would.”

This CBS 11/Dixie Strategies Poll was conducted on September 6-7, 2018 and includes the viewpoints of 225 Republican likely voters, 195 Democrat likely voters and 99 ‘other’ likely voters across Texas who were contacted and surveyed over the phone. The margin of error is 4.30% and has a 95 percent confidence level.

24 methodology1 Tighter Than It Should Be: Cruz Clings To Small Lead In CBS11 Poll, While Abbott Enjoys Wide Margin

Click Link Below To View Entire Set Of Poll Data

CBS 11 TX Statewide Survey by CBS 11 News on Scribd

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