It is election season in Texas, but this November also marks one year until a much bigger contest.
Americans will cast ballots for president in 2024, and Texans will also vote in a U.S. Senate race, among countless local races.
As of now, where do things stand?
“Much like in the rest of the country, Donald Trump still strides the landscape like a colossus among Republicans. He has a substantial lead over all of his primary opponents. And, you know, we’re not seeing any indication that anybody is closing that gap,” Henson said. “The field at this point, a year out and from the general election – but still, you know, four or five months away from the primary – it’s still Donald Trump’s race to lose.”
Henson said President Joe Biden is about where one would expect at this point in the race in Texas.
“He’s running about eight points behind Donald Trump in any trial ballot match up. He looks better, roughly evenly matched, with top contenders on the Republican side — people like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley. But this is still a very Republican state,” he said.
“The underlying numbers suggest that, were Donald Trump to not be the nominee – and I think even given these numbers, we want to keep an open mind about this – it’s hard to imagine that Texas Republicans would not converge among whoever is the Republican candidate because the Republican views of Joe Biden are so negative.”
When it comes to the Democratic primary for Texas’ U.S. senate seat, Henson said two names stand out in the group: Congressman Colin Allred and Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez.
“Allred is an African-American congressman from the Dallas area, viewed generally as what we would call the establishment candidate on the Democratic side. He’s a more successful fundraiser,” Henson said. “Gutierrez, of course, is a state senator. He has been in the news a bit in the last few years. He represents Uvalde and he was a leader in the response to the Uvalde massacre in the Legislature and even to some extent nationally.”
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Neither candidate has run statewide before, Henson said, and plenty might change before the primary in March.
“Most Democrats don’t have a view of that and are not paying much attention yet,” he said. “I think that race will not start to take real shape among the electorate until early next year.”
Henson said in general it’s important not to assume these numbers tell us more than they do, especially at this point in the election cycle.
“In terms of the usefulness, I mean, on one hand, I would not try to predict very much on data that we’re getting a year before the election. On the other hand, we do this to get benchmarks and to take soundings on what the mood of the electorate is going into these elections. That does give us some input, particularly as we see primaries coming, coming up,” he said.
“I think one of the things that’s worth noting is that if we go back to October of 2019, a year before the 2020 election, 50% of the electorate told us that they were extremely enthusiastic about the election. Fast forward to October ’23, a year before the next election. Only 39% say they’re enthusiastic. So, you know, one thing that I think is worth noting at this point, both as a benchmark and as setting the stage for the primary season, is that voters are not as enthusiastic or as engaged in the election.”