Texas Republicans supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the March primary, but they now prefer Donald Trump to Cruz as their party’s presidential nominee, and they would prefer former Gov. Rick Perry over Cruz in a potential Senate matchup in 2018, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday.
Half of Texas Republicans said they would like Cruz to be their party’s Senate nominee in 2018, but 43 percent said they would prefer someone else. Presented with the alternative of Perry, just 37 percent supported Cruz.
The survey of 944 likely voters — including 522 Republican voters — conducted Friday through Sunday showed that Cruz’s failed presidential run and his refusal to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention last month have hurt him with the party faithful.
Cruz fared better in other potential Senate matchups, beating Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with 49 percent to Patrick’s 27 percent, and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, a lesser-known figure who has been mentioned as a potential rival, with 51 percent to 19 percent for McCaul.
Perry couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. After his second White House bid ended early, Perry campaigned with great passion for Cruz in Iowa and South Carolina. After Cruz’s demise, Perry endorsed Trump with much the same gusto.
Of a potential Senate bid, McCaul told reporters Wednesday in Austin that he was “flattered with all the interest” and “never say never.”
Asked about Cruz’s tenure in the Senate, McCaul noted that Cruz “spent a lot of time running for president.”
A fatal setback?
Among all voters, Cruz’s approval numbers are upside down, with 39 percent approving of the job he’s doing and 48 percent disapproving. His senior Texan colleague in the Senate, John Cornyn, who has labored in Cruz’s shadow since Cruz’s election in 2012, has an overall 34 percent approval rating, compared with a 31 percent disapproval rating, with 35 percent not expressing an opinion. Gov. Greg Abbott has a 54 percent approval rating and a 30 percent disapproval rating.
The poll found that Cruz would easily defeat Democrats former state Sen. Wendy Davis and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro by a 12-point margin. While the poll tested a matchup with Julián Castro, it is his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who has expressed an interest in challenging Cruz.
In matchups against Abbott, Castro and Davis fare far more poorly, with Castro trailing Abbott, 57 percent to 28 percent, and Davis trailing Abbott 57 percent to 32 percent. Abbott defeated Davis by 20 points when he was elected governor in 2014.
Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said that Cruz’s diminished standing with Republicans is consistent with other recent polling but might not prove very consequential in the long run.
“Ted Cruz did take a little bit of a hit,” Henson said. “Nobody should be surprised by that, particularly in an election in which the field was crowded, the elbows were sharp, and you had a very volatile personality in the form of Donald Trump.”
Even before the GOP convention, the University of Texas poll has found that Cruz’s overall approval rating among Republicans had dropped from 71 percent in October 2015, to 64 percent in February 2016, to 55 percent in June.
“Does any of this look fatal? I don’t think so,” Henson said. “It’s going to be very different in six to eight months, let alone a year from now, let alone two years from now.”
Gun control support
Public Policy Polling is a Democratic-leaning firm that often asks issue questions that might be useful to Democratic candidates.
On guns, the poll found that 48 percent of Texans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, 83 percent back legislation to prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from buying a firearm, and 89 percent support criminal background checks for any person purchasing a firearm.
The poll found that Texans, by a 63 percent to 18 percent ratio (with 19 percent undecided), believe the Senate ought to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, and that includes more than half of those respondents who supported Republican Mitt Romney for president in 2012.
The poll also found that, by a 50 percent to 41 percent ratio, Texans favor building a wall between Texas and Mexico, but by an 87 percent to 7 percent ratio, Texans oppose building a wall between Texas and Oklahoma, typical of the kind of mischievous question Public Policy Polling includes in its surveys.
The overall poll has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points while the questions that were only put to Republicans have a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
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