Ted Cruz now holds a solid 10-point lead over his opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst heading into Tuesday’s Senate Republican primary.
A Public Policy Polling poll released Monday found the former Solicitor General, Cruz, with 52 percent support to Dewhurst’s 42 percent. The numbers show continuing momentum for Cruz, who two weeks ago led by half that margin: 49 percent to 44 percent.
Dewhurst will head into Tuesday already disadvantaged, as Cruz leads 55 percent to 40 percent among voters who cast a ballot during the past week in early voting. Unfortunately for him, Cruz also leads 49-44 among voters who plan to vote on Tuesday.
Cruz holds a whopping lead among the tea party, which has served as his base for much of the primary. He also leads among younger voters. Dewhurst leads among non-tea partiers and seniors.
The poll validates the Cruz campaign’s strategy of pushing for a run-off and winning in a midsummer, low-turn out race, where the candidate with the most enthusiastic supporters would be victorious. Indeed, “very excited” voters support Cruz over Dewhurst 63 percent to 33 percent, a group that composes 50 percent of Republicans, according to the poll.
Cruz has a smaller lead among “somewhat excited” voters. Dewhurst leads among the “not that excited” voters, but they compose only 21 percent of likely primary voters polled by PPP. And, as “not that excited” voters already lack enthusiasm, it’s possible they will not turnout to vote in the first place.
The race, which has attracted attention from conservatives nationwide, has also turned into something of a proxy way between two of the biggest names in Republican politics. Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Cruz, the poll finds, makes 31 percent of voters more likely to vote for him, while 24 percent are less likely.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsement of Dewhurst, on the other hand, now makes 35 percent people less likely to vote for for the Lt. Gov. and just 16 percent more likely to vote for him. One should be careful not to read too much into this – 50 percent of voters say an endorsement from Perry makes no difference, and 45 percent say the same of Palin’s support — but it does indicate that Perry, who at this point last year was one of the most popular Republican leaders in the country, has seen his star power fade.
Primary day is Tuesday. Based on the demographics in the state and the lack of a strong Democratic candidate, whichever Republican wins the race will likely be Texas’ next senator, filling the seat of retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.