The results of the June 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll were short on surprises, so they’ll largely be viewed as good news for Texas Republicans and all-too-familiar bad news for the state’s Democrats. As usual, we’ll drill down into the results and their implications in the coming weeks, but for now, here are five quick takeaways.
1. Greg Abbott remains strongly positioned for November. Beneath the surface of his 12-point lead over state Sen. Wendy Davis, Attorney General Greg Abbott is doing well with the groups he is expected to win — men, Anglos, conservatives, older voters — and also exceeding expectations among demographic groups crucial for Davis, like suburban women (among whom he leads by 9 points) and Hispanics (he only trails Davis by 6 points). While louder Republicans may have been getting most of the attention recently, Abbott has quietly solidified his popularity among the party's base — and this is likely enough for a Republican like him to claim victory in 2014.
2. The statewide Republican advantage survived a divisive primary season just fine. It’s only early June — something Democrats might take solace in — but the Republican statewide candidates start the general election campaign with 35 to 40 percent of the electorate in their stable. This built-in advantage means the GOP won’t have to do too much work to cover the remaining distance when election season starts in earnest in September. The long and noisy Republican primary season likely reminded a lot of Texans that they are, in fact, Republicans.
3. Not much good news here for Wendy Davis. The Davis campaign so far hasn’t generated the enthusiasm that will be necessary for her to make the race more competitive — let alone win. Recent comments by Davis allies (and, perhaps, personnel changes within the campaign) suggest that the Democrats are aware of this and hope to change the dynamic between now and November. For now, though, many potential Democratic voters appear unfocused on the race. (Forty-five percent of those expressing no preference in the governor’s race identified as Democrats.) There are a few positive signs for Davis, like her having overtaken Abbott among Hispanic voters since February, but there are also added signs of concern, like her favorability rating among Hispanics, which dropped over the same period by 6 points. More troubling still, Davis’ net favorability ratings among women have fallen from plus-8 in February to minus-3.
4. If Leticia Van de Putte is the secret weapon, she’s still a secret. The shot in the arm that the Democrats are expecting from the presence of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte on the ticket remains unseen (at least so far). Van de Putte’s approval numbers are in the net positive range, but the San Antonio Democrat remains unknown to more than half of the electorate, including 48 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Hispanics.
5. Dan Patrick has gained among Anglos and fallen among Hispanics. Go figure. As for Van De Putte’s opponent, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, his numbers weakly reflect the Democratic argument that his brand of conservatism could cause the Republicans some headaches — but not to a degree that is likely to shift the outcome of any election right now. Patrick’s long primary campaign has introduced him to a large number of potential voters, and while Hispanics have reacted in a predictably negative fashion, increasing their negative evaluations of him by 13 points since February, Anglos, a far larger share of the electorate (especially in an off-year election), have increased their favorable assessment of Patrick by the same amount, 13 points, over that period.
As with any polling result in the summer before an election that will take place at the end of the following fall, the usual caveats apply: This all looks like business as usual because most people aren’t paying attention. But in the lopsided landscape that is Texas politics, with Republicans on the mountain and Democrats in the valley, there’s a lot of climbing to be done for the latter, and the path is narrow and difficult.
While an unprecedented amount of mobilization is certainly underway, as of yet, there is no evidence of any stirring that should concern Republicans about the fall.