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Texas showdown: Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke gains ground on GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in new poll

A new public opinion survey in Texas released on Wednesday suggests that Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke has increased his support and trails two-term Republican Gov. Greg Abbott by single digits.

O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman who came close to ousting Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate election before unsuccessfully running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, grabbed the support of 43% of registered voters in a Quinnipiac University poll. 

Abbott, a former state attorney general who’s running for a third four-year term steering Texas, stood at 48% support.

Abbott’s 5-point advantage over O’Rourke was down from a 15-point lead in a Quinnipiac survey conducted in December. Other recent polls have indicated Abbott with a larger lead.

The new survey questioned respondents June 9-13, in the wake of the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 young students and two teachers were killed and 17 other people wounded.

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The Quinnipiac poll indicated Abbott was up by double digits among men, with O’Rourke holding a similar lead among women. The governor led among White voters and those 35 and older, while O’Rourke was up among Black and Hispanic voters, and those 18-34, according to the survey.

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Abbott’s ratings stood at 46% favorable and 45% unfavorable, while O’Rourke was slightly underwater at 38%-43%.

“The race tightens,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy noted. “Abbott, considered strong on leadership, slips. O’Rourke, considered long on empathy, rides the momentum of support from women and young Texans in the horse race to Austin.”

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A plurality of Texas voters said border security was their top issue, and the governor topped O’Rourke on how he’d handle the southern border 53% to 38%. The survey also indicated Abbott besting O’Rourke on handling the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, election laws and gun policy, though O’Rourke had a slight edge on the issue of abortion.

Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is running against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for governor this year, interrupts a news conference headed by Abbott. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

Abbott held a 46% approval and 48% disapproval rating as governor. But on the handing of gun violence, only 31% approved, with 6 in 10 disapproving.

President Biden was deeply in negative territory according to the poll, with just a third of Lone Star State voters giving him a thumbs up and 61% disapproving.

Quinnipiac questioned 1,257 registered voters in Texas for the survey with an overall sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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