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Eight Months of the U.S. Senate Race

Before Tuesday's election, here's a look at the last eight months of polling in the Republican race for U.S. Senate.

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However cloudy the results, the flurry of late polling in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate provides an opportunity to look at the trajectory of the public surveys in the race.

On the heels of the release of the results of the May 2012 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, Public Policy Polling, which has been polling regularly in Texas for the last few years, released the results of another statewide survey, including polling in the GOP Senate primary. The poll was in the field May 22-23, two weeks after we collected data for the UT/TT Poll, and found Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with a larger lead than we found in mid-May.

It’s worth noting that PPP excluded two candidates who garnered a total of 5 percent in the UT/Texas Tribune Poll and who are still in the race: Glenn Addison and Lela Pittenger, the only woman in the race. It’s a matter of speculation where Addison and Pittenger supporters might have migrated on the PPP poll. While this might seem a minor exclusion to some, in a race in which three candidates are in double figures and the leader is polling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff campaign in the dog days of summer in Texas, the exclusion further muddies already cloudy waters. (To adopt the Twitter convention, h/t to colleague and friend Mark P. Jones of Rice University who caught this glitch in the PPP instrument right away. I was working on this table when Mark emailed, and this post certainly reflects a fun — for guys like us, anyway — email exchange as I tapped out this post.)

Public Polling in the GOP Race for U.S. Senate
PollField DatesSampleMOE (+/-)DewhurstCruzLeppertJamesOtherDK/Und/elseSpread
PPP 9/15-9/18 400RV 4.9% 41 12 6 - 7 34 Dewhurst +29
UT/TT* 10/19-10/26 395RV 4.93% 22 10 5 - 14 50 Dewhurst +10
PPP 1/12-1/15 559RV 4.2% 36 18 7 4 4 31 Dewhurst +18
UT/TT 2/8-2/15 366RV 5.12% 38 27 7 7 4 19 Dewhurst +11
PPP 4/19-4/22 400 RV 4.9% 38 26 8 7 4 18 Dewhurst +12
UT/TT 5/7-5/13 343RV 5.29% 40 28 15 5 9 3 Dewhurst +12
PPP* 5/22-5/23 482 LV 4.5% 46 29 15 3 2 5 Dewhurst +17

The table gathers all of the UT/TT survey results in the GOP Senate race since September 2011. A few notes: I excluded results either formally or informally released from PACs or campaigns. This is an easy call as a rule, because PAC and campaign polls on races often disclose incompletely in some way: They don’t release methodological information or results for all candidates.

A couple of polls were on the bubble — in particular, while the Burnt Orange Report PAC poll release earlier this week seemed to be skewed toward GOP voters over 60, their results in the GOP Senate race fall in line with the results from other polls taken around the same time (in field May 15-16, with Dewhurst, 43 percent; Ted Cruz, 30 percent; Tom Leppert, 14 percent; Craig James, 5 percent; Pittinger, 4 percent; Addison, 2 percent; and a plausible likely voter screen).

I put asterisks near a couple of polls to flag some things about those surveys. The October UT/TT survey has a relatively low Dewhurst number (22 percent) and a very high number of “don’t knows” because we didn’t push those respondents into providing a preference in a follow-up item. With the election nine months away, we doubted the results would be very meaningful. On the PPP poll released this week, in addition to excluding Addison and Pittenger, they billed the sample as one of likely voters, but it’s not clear how they defined likely voters.

There’s not much point in saying too much about this story until we see how things end up Tuesday — the significance of these numbers will be shaped and maybe even illuminated by the results. Overall, the table of results conveys Dewhurst's steady status as a front-runner — but also his failure to decisively dispatch Cruz despite some mighty efforts in recent weeks.

The Dewhurst campaign’s recent negative attacks on Leppert indicate a late effort to peel off some of the votes in Leppert’s column and turn them to Dewhurst. The Dewhurst campaign has played nice with Leppert for most of the campaign, seemingly using him as a foil to try to delegitimize Cruz’s candidacy with the press.

But with Cruz still very present as a legitimate alternative for conservatives, and Dewhurst bubbling under 50 percent, Leppert’s votes could spell the difference between Team Dewhurst taking a soothing summer vacation near the water somewhere nice, or sweating out June and July in the heat of a vicious Texas runoff.

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2012 elections David Dewhurst Ted Cruz