By Jonathan Tilove and Sean Collins Walsh
Originally published on MyStatesman.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has a commanding 12-point lead in his home state over businessman Donald Trump as the candidates head into Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary in Texas, according to a Texas Pulse/American-Statesman poll conducted Feb. 19 to 22. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is a distant third.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has an overwhelming 66 to 26 percent lead over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according to the poll of likely Texas voters, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research for Crosswind Media & Public Relations.
Cruz, coming off his third straight third-place finish, returned to Texas and its upcoming must-win primary to a warm endorsement Wednesday from Gov. Greg Abbott before an adoring hometown crowd.
“Texas has the opportunity to play a Texas-sized role,” Abbott said. “Join me in voting for Ted Cruz.”
“We can’t get this wrong,” Cruz said. “We can’t be fooled by P.T. Barnum. The time for the clowns and the acrobats and the dancing bears has passed.”
The Abbott endorsement comes at a key time for Cruz, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.
“The Cruz campaign is at a critical juncture facing a must-win situation in Texas on March 1. He needs all the help he can get,” Jones said. “If he could ask for only one endorsement in Texas, this is the endorsement he would want.”
Among Texas Republicans, the poll found Cruz was first with 38 percent to 26 percent for Trump, 13 percent for Rubio, 7 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and 6 percent for Dr. Ben Carson. The survey was conducted before and after Saturday’s South Carolina primary, but it concluded before Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses. In both of those contests, Trump won handily with Rubio in second and Cruz a close third.
With the race in flux, polling on the Texas GOP primary has been erratic. An Emerson College survey also released Wednesday found Cruz and Trump virtually tied in the Lone Star State, suggesting that Cruz’s home-field advantage might be eroding after a string of disappointing finishes and bad headlines.
Nonetheless, Cruz’s presidential bid has more home state support than it did in the early stages of the campaign. In a Texas Pulse survey conducted Sept. 11-14, Trump led with 26 percent, Carson was second with 19 percent, Cruz had 15 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race after a poor performance in South Carolina, had 9 percent.
Cruz finished first in the Iowa caucuses, but, coming off third-place finishes in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses, the upcoming “Super Tuesday” contests are do-or-die for him, especially his home state
About 25 percent of all Republican delegates are on the line Tuesday, when there will be GOP primaries or caucuses in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.
Texas is the biggest prize with 155 delegates: 47 doled out based on statewide results and 108 delegates allocated locally, three each for the state’s 36 congressional districts. The delegates are awarded proportionally, unless a candidate receives more than half the vote, either statewide or in a particular congressional district. No candidate is likely to meet the 50 percent threshold statewide.
Read the original Austin American-Statesman story here.