Despite facing multiple challenges in the upcoming Republican primary, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are both expected to make it to the general election, according to a new poll by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.
Despite an ongoing FBI investigation into his actions as attorney general, Paxton remains the most popular candidate in his race. But Paxton’s three opponents may take enough of the vote to force a runoff.
Controversies and all, Paxton is still the likely winner of the primary, according to Mark Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute and senior research associate at the University of Houston’s Hobby School.
“The fact that Donald Trump continues to endorse [Paxton] and support him, with Trump being the most popular political figure among Texas Republican primary voters, pretty much is pushing Paxton towards a first round victory on March first,” Jones said.
The data suggests that even if forced into a runoff, Paxton will win. Louie Gohmert is his closest rival, polling at 15%, versus Paxton’s 44% among Republicans likely to vote in the primary. This popularity comes despite a preference among GOP leaders that he not be the party’s candidate.
“Clearly, the establishment from the Republican Party and even the conservative Freedom Caucus establishment, wants Ken Paxton gone,” Jones said, “They view them as either an embarrassment, a liability or both.”
The poll revealed a large population of undecided Democratic primary voters, just weeks away from the start of voting.
“They simply don’t know anything about most of the Democratic candidates,” Jones said, “Which means that you can have a lot of people probably casting their vote in two weeks when early voting starts with very limited information, perhaps just basing their vote on the name of the person.”
In every race besides the gubernatorial primary, over half of surveyed Democrats remained undecided. A lack of widely known candidates, limited media coverage and low-spending campaigns contributed to low levels of name recognition in the Democratic races.
“I think at least what it’s signaling now is that we’re looking for a continuation of the Republican statewide winning streak that dates back to 1996, with none of the Democrats able to win in November,” Jones said.
The poll predicted the most likely Republican gubernatorial candidate, Abbott will pull ahead of leading Democrat Beto O’Rourke by 5%.
“If you’re a Democrat, you can take some solace in that, since Paxton looks like he’s going to be the GOP candidate, there’s always the possibility that a federal indictment could weaken him and allow Democrats to break their losing streak by flipping that seat, although I’d say that’s doubtful right now,” Jones said.
Early voting in the primaries begins on Feb. 14 and Election Day is March 1.