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Polls suggest Cruz momentum as runoff nears


The following ran in the July 13, 2012, edition of the Houston Chronicle. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

July 24, 2012

By Joe Holley

The clouds hovering over much of Texas this week could be a statewide portent for the better known of the two Houstonians vying to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. For the first time in their long campaign slog, independent polls are showing the so-called movement candidate, tea party favorite Ted Cruz, leading the GOP establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Polls also suggest that Cruz is not the only insurgent candidate on the move as the days dwindle toward the July 31 runoff. In San Antonio, for example, tea party favorite Donna Campbell, a New Braunfels physician, is threatening to derail the long legislative career of state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. In that race and other GOP runoff races around the state, enthusiasm and turnout are key.

"If less than a million people vote and Cruz wins, he's likely to have coattails," said Mustafa Tameez, a Houston political consultant. "He'll pull in a lot of the movement candidates."

Cruz has insisted all along that his supporters have the enthusiasm, and a new survey suggests that he may be right. The survey, by Wenzel Strategies, shows Cruz leading Dewhurst 47 percent to 38 percent with two weeks to go. Dewhurst won the first round of voting by 10 points but did not get the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff. ...

SMU political scientist Cal Jillson said he still is predicting a Dewhurst win, but he and other analysts agree that Dewhurst is in trouble.

"I am not convinced by the polls of the last couple days," he said. "The Cruz people are praying for low turnout, hoping to win one to nothing if Dewhurst forgets to vote. I still think Dewhurst wins by six, but I have been surprised before."...