Early voting starts Monday for this November's midterm election. For this week's edition of Texas: The Issue Is, FOX 4's Steven Dial, FOX 26's Greg Groogan and FOX 7's Rudy Koski questioned Rice University political analyst and pollster Mark Jones about what to expect from this year's election.
Texas Governor's Race
Polls in recent weeks have shown Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke struggling to close the gap with Gov. Greg Abbott. A recent poll from University of Texas - Texas Politics Project shows Abbott with an 11-point lead, over O'Rourke among likely voters in the 2022 election.
"Beto's been down by about 6 to 10 points, depending on how you calculate turnout and vote intention," said Jones. "He hasn't been able to narrow the gap and as we get closer to election day I think we're looking at another Greg Abbott victory and Beto O'Rourke defeat. The only real question that remains is: does he lose by 5 or 6 points or 10 or 12 points."
When questioned about the accuracy of polling, and the potential for a November surprise Jones stuck to his guns.
"I think we have enough polls showing us the same thing, that is Greg Abbott winning by a large enough margin that he shouldn't have any problems," he said. "As you get down ballot, that becomes much more of a partisan vote, and we know in Texas the Republicans start off with a 6, to 8, to 10 point advantage, and right now I don't see any indication that any of those down ballot Republicans, at least in the statewide races, are going to lose."
Jones says he is expecting to see many voters at the polls for early voting.
"Early voting has been on the rise for the last few election cycles. In 2020, close to 90% of Texans voted early, and I think we are likely to see something like that again," he said. "I would expect we are going to have record turnout for a midterm; somewhere around 10 million, but we probably aren't going to get up to the levels that we had in 2020, which were around 11 million."
Jones says he does not believe the Supreme Court's abortion decision or the shooting in Uvalde will turn out a significant number of new voters.
"The people who frequently vote in presidential elections and in midterms, they're enthused, and they are going to be turning out." said Jones. "The trick for Democrats will be: can they get Generation Z, the younger voters to turn out? The more those younger voters turnout, the better Democrats are going to do."
Jones also raised some concerns that a focus on the Latino vote by Democrats, could open the door for African Americans voters to go red.
"Carroll Robinson, a professor at Texas Southern University made that point during the Texas Democratic Party Convention that 'Texas Democrats take African American voters for granted at their peril," Jones said.
Top Issues for Voters
Polls have shown the safety and security of the Texas-Mexico border is the top issue for Texans going into the midterms.
"Immigration is a very important issue here for two principal reasons: first, there is no other issue, besides maybe crime and public safety, that mobilizes Republicans more to turn out to vote, but it is also one of those rare issues that mobilizes the Republican base, but is also popular with middle-of-the-road voters," Jones said. "Abortion, while an important issue for a segment of the population, particularly younger Democrats and Democratic women, it has not become the large-scale type of issue that mobilizes large numbers of people."
"The more that immigration and border security and the Biden administration's problems with border security are in the news, the better it is for Texas Republicans," he added.
INTERVIEWS WITH THE CANDIDATES
- Beto O'Rourke discusses guns, abortion and Pres. Biden not doing enough about the border
- Gov. Greg Abbott discusses abortion, the border and guns
- AG candidate Rochelle Garza talks going from daughter of educators to civil rights attorney
Texas Attorney General Race
Polls have shown that Rochelle Garza could be the best chance for Democrats to win a large statewide race this election season.
"That's based almost exclusively on Ken Paxton's weakness as a candidate. There's a reason why Republican elites went after him in the Republican primary. Due to his legal troubles, his marital troubles, ethical troubles," Jones said. "The difficulty for Garza is she has raised virtually no money, she's only [raised] a little over $2 million. To have a chance at victory she really needed to be up in the $10 million to $12 million range."
Jones says the money could have been used to educate Texas voters about who she is and put a focus on Paxton's issues.
"The less people know about Ken Paxton as a person, the more likely they are to simply vote the party ticket when they go to vote this fall," said Jones. "I would expect him to win by the smallest margin of any of the Republicans."
Texas Lieutenant Governor Race
The Texas Lieutenant Governor race has been an interesting one. Outgoing Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Amarillo state Senator Kel Seliger, Corsicana state Rep. Byron Cook and Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Plano, all Republicans, endorsed Democrat Mike Collier over incumbent Dan Patrick.
Jones says he does not believe the endorsements will have a large impact on the race.
"When we look at the polls only about 3-4% of Texas Republicans say they are going to vote for Mike Collier, and a similar number of Democrats say they are going to vote for Dan Patrick," said Jones.