The race for U.S. Senate in Texas has gotten a lot hotter than incumbent GOP Sen. John Cornyn ever imagined at the outset of this cycle. Due to Cornyn and his Republican senate colleagues building Donald Trump into the monster that escaped from lab, Cornyn’s Democratic challenger MJ Hegar is breathing down his neck in her bid to unseat him.
In fact, a Public Policy Polling survey released Friday put Hegar just a few points down. "MJ Hegar trails John Cornyn just 49-46, making up for the Republican lean of the state thanks to a 55-34 advantage with independent voters," writes PPP. The polling outfit also noted the race was surprisingly close given that Cornyn has a 15-point advantage in name recognition.
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76% of voters have an opinion about him with 39% rating him favorably and 37% unfavorably. 61% of voters have an opinion about Hegar with 32% rating her favorably and 29% unfavorably.
In other words, if Hegar managed to up her name recognition in these closing weeks, she certainly stands a chance of closing that 3-point gap.
Senate Democrats’ top super PAC liked those odds. The day before PPP's survey was released, Senate Majority PAC announced it was directing $8.6 million toward the race for both English and Spanish-language ads that begin airing Friday and run through Election Day. The first ad focuses on Cornyn's numerous votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Three weeks out, and John Cornyn has a weaker standing than Ted Cruz ever did,” J.B. Poersch, President of Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement. Of course, Cruz only edged out Democrat Beto O'Rourke by about 2.5 points in 2018.
Hegar also raised almost double what Cornyn did in the third quarter, bringing in nearly $14 million to his $7.2 million. That haul basically erased the GOP senator's cash advantage. From June through September, Cornyn spent more than twice as much as Hegar, $13.7 million to $6.4 million, according to the Dallas Morning News.
But between Hegar's increased fundraising and some help from Senate Majority PAC, Hegar is poised to make a real run at Cornyn in these final weeks.
Since 2016, the state has seen a net gain of 1.8 million more voters on its rolls. On the first day of early voting Tuesday, both Harris and Dallas Counties shattered their previous first-day turnout records in what are two of the bluest counties in the state.