POLITICO-July 12, 2012: The Republican pollster who signaled Dick Lugar’s demise and Deb Fischer’s late surge is now flagging an upset in the making in the Texas Senate Race. TEA Party favorite Ted Cruz is leading Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, 47 percent to 38 percent in the GOP runoff, according to Columbus, Ohio-based Wenzel Strategies.
The poll, commissioned for the Cruz-backing Citizens United Political Victory Fund and released first to POLITICO, found 14 percent remain undecided with just under three weeks until the election.
The numbers directly conflict with the latest findings by Dewhurst’s camp, which released a poll Wednesday placing their candidate ahead by 8 percentage points, 50 percent to 42 percent.
A Cruz campaign internal poll last week had the former Solicitor General up 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, pollster Fritz Wenzel said the Republican primary electorate has been more volatile this year than previous cycles.
“Voters are waiting much longer to make their decisions because they sense this is one of the most important elections in their lifetimes. We see from state to state to state, levels of undecided voters and soft supporters that I don’t remember seeing in previous cycles,” he said.
Wenzel said that his poll found only 62 percent of likely voters consider themselves “very firm” in their choice, a particularly low number for this point in a runoff.
“People are being very careful about their final decisions. These people are going to vote, but they are just really up in the air. For pollsters, it drives us crazy,” he said.
The irrefutable takeaway from the flurry of numbers is that Dewhurst is in a much more competitive race than many observers had previously thought. What both sides agree on: This is a single-digit affair.
“Ted Cruz clearly has the momentum in this pivotal race because he believes deeply in the core conservative principles that Texans live by,” said Citizens United President David Bossie in a statement.
Another indication Dewhurst smells trouble: His sustained attacks on Cruz as the favorite of the Washington elite.
A Dewhurst Web video released Thursday uses a faux Facebook timeline to highlight Cruz was born in Canada, went to Princeton and Harvard and then moved to Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, Cruz is getting reinforcements from the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is beginning a $1.5 million television and radio campaign Thursday.
“Why is Dewhurst throwing so much mud at conservative Ted Cruz?” asks a female narrator. “To hide his own record.”
Wenzel has a strong track record this cycle during the closing weeks of Senate primaries. Two weeks ahead of the Indiana Senate primary, Wenzel released a poll showing Richard Mourdock up 5 points on Sen. Dick Lugar. Lugar went on to lose by 20 points.
Its survey taken just days before the Nebraska Senate primary showed Fischer pulling within 3 points of front-running Attorney General Jon Bruning. Fischer went on to score a 5-point upset.
This Wenzel telephone poll of 600 likely voters was taken Tuesday and Wednesday and has a 4 percentage point margin of error.