Politico reports that US Senator John Cornyn, who recently drew a far-right Republican primary challenger in Steve Stockman, may have very little to worry about come next March. WPA Opinion Research recently conducted a limited poll among over 750 likely Republican primary voters, finding that 50% of voters supported Cornyn, 39% remained undecided and only 6% supported Stockman (a further 5% supported other candidates, such as Dwayne Stovall).
I cannot get my hands on the actual poll itself, so I cannot do much analysis regarding the methodology or selection criteria, nor the crosstabs. However, I do think that these results beg two invaluable questions moving forward with this primary. First, it is odd that nearly 2/5 voters are still undecided about a race featuring a two-term incumbent who no one may accuse of straying away from the spotlight. He is the Minority Whip of the Senate, meaning that in the (exceedingly rare, though still possible) scenario where Republicans regain control of the Senate despite McConnell being defeated for re-election (or, of course, primaried), he would become the most powerful person the upper chamber. Despite all of this publicity, he still is unable to maintain majority support from his own party in his own state.
Second, it is worth noting that 2014 will not be just any regular Republican primary. The super-competitive race for Lieutenant Governor will draw quite a few extra people to the polls, as will similarly arduous contests for Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, Comptroller, Railroad Commissioner and three seats on the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is the biggest turnaround for state offices in at least twelve years, if not more.
The pinpointing of who, specifically, is a ‘likely’ voter is one of the more burdensome tasks for a pollster. This was the central failure behind Gallup, Ramussen and the other prognosticators of doom in the 2012 election, who severely underestimate the size of the electorate. Again, I am not privy to the exact details of who the pollster sought out, but if it assumes similar turnout to the 2010 primary, I would take the results with a grain of salt.
Finally, Stockman just started his campaign a few days ago. He has had very little time to gain visibility, whereas Cornyn has held Statewide office nonstop since 1990 (one term on the Texas Supreme Court, one term as Attorney General and two terms in the US Senate). The most pressing number is not really Stockman’s percentage, its the undecided percentage. Granted, 39% is not nearly as bad as it could have been. I’d like to know if the poll asked for Cornyn’s approval rating.