Democrats may have a shot at the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm.
Republicans have the clear advantage. With little party crossover, the poll found them starting out with a 44-35 advantage. But independents favored Democrats in every match-up, indicating Democrats could eke it out if they find a strong enough candidate or draw a weak opponent.
Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has not yet formally announced a campaign, is currently the strongest of all the candidates. On the Democratic side of the aisle, the strongest challenge would come from Tommy Lee Jones, the Oscar-winning actor. Jones has not expressed interest in the seat, but there is a movement afoot to draft him. Dewhurst currently leads Jones by four points, 43-39.
Dewhurst fares even better when paired with other possible Democratic contenders, like former general Ricardo Sanchez and former state Comptroller John Sharp. Meanwhile, Jones only trails former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, a Republican, by one point. He even beats Republican Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, by the same margin.
“Democrats would need a lot of things to break their way to pick up this seat, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. “Certainly their prospects look better than they did earlier in the year.”
A lack of name recognition remains an issue in the race. According to the poll, Dewhurst’s is at 55 percent, Sharp's is 39 percent, Sanchez's is 33 percent, Leppert's is 32 percent, and Cruz is trailing with 25 percent. Jones, the only non-politician in the poll, is the only one with positive favorability ratings.
Notably absent from the poll are some other Republican options, including Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, a declared candidate, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who is considering a run.
The survey, conducted from June 25th to 27th, included 795 Texas voters and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.