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Poll: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has a lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke

New Quinnipiac survey finds Cruz up by 9 points, more than the margin of error

AUSTIN (CFP) — On the eve of the first debate in the Texas U.S. Senate contest, a new poll of likely voters shows that Democratic hopes — and Republican fears — of a competitive race this November may be overblown.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

A Quinnipiac University poll, released Sept. 18, found that Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz had a lead of 54 to 45 percent over his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke , a statistically significant lead in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

An August poll by Quinnipiac had found Cruz’s lead within the margin of error and his support under 50 percent. However, that was a survey of registered voters, rather than likely voters; likely voter polls are designed to weed out respondents who are unlikely to vote.

The poll found that women and voters who classify themselves as independents were evenly divided between the two candidates. But men favored Cruz by 15 points, and he led by 34 points among white voters.

O’Rourke’s support is stronger among Latinos, where he leads Cruz by 9 points, and among African Americans, where he leads by 94 points.

The biggest hurdle for O’Rourke may be that Cruz is viewed favorably by most likely voters in Texas, with 53 percent approving of his job performance, according to the poll.

His approval numbers are better than those for President Donald Trump, who is viewed favorably and unfavorably by 49 percent.

Cruz and O’Rourke are scheduled to meet in their first debate on Friday, Sept. 20.

Cruz, 47, was elected to the Senate in 2012 on his first try for political office. In 2016, he made an unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination, carrying 12 primaries and caucuses and finishing second in the delegate count behind Trump.

O’Rouke, 45, has represented metro El Paso in the House since 2013, after serving on the El Paso City Council. Although he is Irish and his given first name is Robert, he was nicknamed “Beto” — a Spanish nickname for Robert — from childhood.

His campaign has excited the Democratic base, drawing large crowds and media attention in a state that hasn’t seen a competitive Senate race in 30 years.

O’Rourke has also raised $23.6 million for the race, according to the latest Federal Elections Commission reports, slightly more than Cruz. The last time Cruz ran, in 2012, he outraised and outspent his Democratic opponent by a 2-to-1 margin, on his way to a 16-point victory.

Still, the odds against a Democrat in Texas are daunting. Republicans have won the last nine Senate races by an average margin of 19 percent.

Despite an often contentious relationship during the 2016 presidential race, Trump has announced that he would be “picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find” for a rally for Cruz in October. No date has been announced.

The Texas race is one of six Southern states with open seats in 2018; the others are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi, where both seats are on the ballot.

Four of those races are shaping up to be potentially competitive — Florida and West Virginia, which are currently held by Democrats, and Texas and Tennessee, held by Republicans.

Democrats need to make a net gain of two seats to take control of the Senate.

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