The Tribune has the numbers: Dewhurst 46% Cruz 29% Leppert 15% James 3% I was not a believer in the recent UT/Tribune poll that showed Dewhurst’s lead down to single digits (40% to 31%). I don’t believe that the race has ever been this close. The PPP numbers seem much closer to the mark: a hefty double-digit lead (+17) for Dewhurst. At 46%, however, Dewhurst is in danger of being forced into a runoff by Cruz and/0r Leppert. He has two months, until July 31, to find the four percentage points that will enable him to avoid a runoff in what is likely to be a low turnout scenario in which most of the voters are from the Republican base. As I see the race, Dewhurst still has the advantage, but Cruz has a lot of time to narrow the gap — two months. Remember the long lapse in the Sibley-Birdwell race that gave Birdwell ample time to overcome Sibley’s lead. Dewhurst is going to have to keep up a relentless attack on Cruz if he is going to prevent the challenger from forcing a runoff. Already, Dewhurst has had millions of dollars spent against him by conservative groups from Washington, and more will be coming. This is a national race now. I listened to Dewhurst’s radio spot accusing Cruz of being involved with two organizations that support amnesty. The ad would be more effective if it identified the organizations. As it stands, it doesn’t have much credibility. As others have pointed out, Dewhurst is also calling Cruz a trial lawyer. This is not credible either. A trial lawyer, in the language of politics, refers to a personal injury lawyer. Cruz handles business litigation, such as the one involving China for which Dewhurst has been taking Cruz to task. We’re headed for a pretty dismal 60 days if this is the level of rhetoric we’re going to hear in the runoff (assuming there is one). * * * * PPP’s writeup on the race is very interesting, and it shows that Dewhurst is in a strong position: Dewhurst’s 17 point lead represents a reversal of the direction the race had been heading in. Dewhurst started out with a 29 point lead in our polling last September but by January that had declined to 18 points and on our last poll, a month ago, it was down to 12. But Cruz has only gained 3 points over the last four weeks, while Dewhurst has seen an 8 point bump in his support. Even if Dewhurst does get stopped short of 50%, his prospects in a runoff election look pretty promising. He would lead Cruz 59-34 in a head to head, mostly because Leppert voters prefer Dewhurst over Cruz by a 77-13 margin. Dewhurst’s prospects look good whether his victory comes on Tuesday or later. But there is one finding in the poll that suggests some possibility for things to be closer than expected. 49% of Cruz’s voters are ‘very excited’ about casting their ballots on Tuesday, while only 27% of Dewhurst’s are. With voters who are ‘very excited’ about turning out, Cruz actually has a 42-37 advantage. That pro-Cruz enthusiasm gap won’t be enough to put him in first place on Tuesday but if he does force a runoff it could give him a fighting chance in a low turnout election further down the line. Dewhurst has neutralized Tea Party voters, holding a narrow 39-38 advantage over Cruz with them. Meanwhile he’s winning non-Tea Party Republicans by a 30 point margin at 53-23. Dewhurst has done everything he needed to do in this race. Neutralizing tea party voters is huge. Having an overwhelming advantage among Leppert supporters is huge. But there isn’t anything he can do about the enthusiasm gap. He’s not the type of personality who generates enthusiasm.
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