DALLAS — If Beto O’Rourke decides to run for governor in 2022, a new poll shows the former congressman is within the margin of error and virtually tied with the incumbent, Greg Abbott.
Abbott currently leads with 44% of support to O’Rourke’s 43-percent, among voters who actually cast ballots in 2020. Ten percent of those polled are currently undecided who they would choose for governor.
The race is virtually unchanged, the pollsters said, even if actor Matthew McConaughey appears on the ballot as an independent candidate.
“Governor Abbott has shored up his right flank and stands firmly on solid ground with Republican primary voters,” said Jason Villalba, Chairman and CEO of the TxHPF. “But based on our data, it appears that he has achieved this objective by cutting deeply into his support with Texans who vote in the general election. These numbers show that not only can we expect a competitive general election, but that Abbott’s shift to the hard right may have imperiled his governorship.”
For years, Abbott polled among the most popular elected officials in Texas. But since COVID-19, that support has eroded as the governor has turned away from the middle and farther to the right.
As Abbott seeks a third term, he has, for the first time, drawn three Republican challengers, former state Senator Don Huffines, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, Lt. Col. Allen West, and radio host Chad Prather.
But this survey shows Abbott with an overwhelming lead against them in the primary. Abbott is ahead of his conservative opponents with 64% of support. His next closest rival is Allen West, with 13%.
Plus, Abbott has $55-million cash on hand, an enormous amount to sustain his campaign through the primary and general elections.
Beto O’Rourke, a former Congressman from El Paso, came within two percentage points of defeating Ted Cruz for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018. O’Rourke has not announced his candidacy for governor, though many Democrats expect he will run.
“The poll found that 49% of Hispanic respondents favor O’Rourke and 31-percent favor Abbott. Hispanics who are evangelical Protestants are more likely to vote for Abbott (42%) than O’Rourke (37%), while Catholic Hispanics and non-religious Hispanics overwhelmingly favor O’Rourke (56% and 46%) over Abbott (29% and 28%),” according to both groups.
Race for Attorney General
In another notable race, this survey shows Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has an overwhelming lead in his race for re-election. Paxton faces three Republican opponents in the primary, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth.
The poll shows that Paxton might survive the Republican primary without even facing a run-off election. Paxton has 54% support from likely Republican primary voters. Bush is the next closest candidate with 18%. Guzman and Krause poll in the single digits.
Among Democrats, no candidate commands a strong lead in the primary races for lieutenant governor and attorney general. More than half of likely primary voters said they do not yet know whom they support.
“Abbott and Paxton are showing a great deal of strength heading into the Republican primary,” said TxHPF Director of Research and Analytics Mark P. Jones of Rice University. “So far, no Republican challenger to an incumbent statewide official appears to be gaining any traction.”