Polls Show Texas Democrats Gaining, But Are The Races Really That Close?

Texas Democrats are touting a new Texas Tribune University of Texas poll that shows several statewide races, especially the contests for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, too close to call, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

But experts say the races aren't really as close as they look.The new poll, released this week, show Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton leading his Democrat challenger by just one percentage point, and show Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in a tight race as well.

Senator Ted Cruz has a six point advantage over Democrat challenger Beto O'Rourke in the closely watched contest for U.S. Senate.

But Mark Jones, a veteran political analyst at Rice University, says these findings are less significant than they look.

"Given the strong Republican partisan advantage statewide, I would not take this as evidence that either Ken Paxton or Dan Patrick are in danger, although it would indicate that they will have to work a little harder to win re-election," Jones said.

Paxton and Patrick have been uniquely targeted by Democrats, Paxton because he has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges, and Patrick because of his social conservative viewpoints on hot button issues like LGBT rights.

Jones says there is one factor that the polls can't measure which is a huge advantage for Republicans.  He says in both races, more than a quarter of the voters polled are undecided, and that means straight ticket voting will loom large.

"Neither Patrick not Paxton need to be all that worried right now," Jones said.  "That's because, at least for this upcoming election, Texas will continue to use the straight ticket voting option."

He says one key to Republican success in Texas over the past twenty years has been the huge number of voters who simply vote straight ticket Republican, usually based on national issues like a dislike for Barack Obama.  Many times the comments and claims made by Texas Democrats don't even figure into their decision.

Analysts also pointed out that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott holds a substantial advantage over Democrat challenger Lupe Valdez in a race that is not expected to be close, and the candidate at the top of the ticket frequently decides straight ticket voting patterns.

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