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Democratic polls show competitive House races in Texas

Surveys are early sign of Democratic groups’ willingness to spend in Lone Star State

Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas’ 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democrats are targeting GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in Texas’ 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of Republican-held House seats in the Texas suburbs represent fertile ground for competitive races in 2020, according to recent Democratic polling. 

The surveys in six GOP districts, shared first with CQ Roll Call, are a sign that Democratic outside groups are willing to spend resources in the Lone Star State, where party leaders believe they can make gains next year. The polls were commissioned by House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to the chamber’s Democratic leadership.

Three of the districts surveyed have GOP incumbents running for reelection, including Reps. Michael McCaul in the 10th District, Chip Roy in the 21st and John Carter in the 31st. Polls were also conducted in three open-seat races in the 22nd, 23rd and 24th districts. Republicans won all six seats in 2018, all by margins of 5 points or less.

The surveys, conducted by Public Policy Polling, tested a generic Democrat against a generic Republican in each of the districts. 

Respondents backed a generic Republican candidate over a Democratic one in four of the six races. In the 10th, 21st and 22nd districts, 49 percent supported a GOP candidate, compared to 46, 44 and 45 percent respectively for a Democrat. Fifty-one percent backed a Republican in the 31st District, compared to 44 percent for a Democrat.

A generic Democratic candidate garnered more support in two districts. Fifty-three percent backed a Democrat in the 23rd District, where GOP incumbent Will Hurd is retiring, to 41 percent for a Republican. In the 24th District, where GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring, 47 percent of respondents supported a Democrat while 46 supported a generic Republican.

The polls surveyed between 523 and 656 likely voters in each of the congressional districts and had margins of error between plus or minus 3.8 and 4.2 percentage points. They were conducted Sept. 19-21 via landline telephone interviews using IVR technology, also known as automated phone polling.

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With the fields still taking shape in these races, the surveys are an early sign that these Texas contests could be competitive, in part because of shifting demographics in the state. The GOP-held suburban districts are also among the fastest growing in the country, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis.

Democrats have been bullish about their chances of flipping House seats in Texas as they look to expand their majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a headquarters in Austin, and DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said at the Texas Tribune Festival recently that the state is “ground zero” in 2020.

Asked at the festival Saturday if she agreed with Bustos, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Yes, indeed. This is it.”

“Texas is our hope for the future,” the California Democrat said.

Pelosi also noted that recent GOP retirements in Texas have bolstered her party’s efforts there. With six House Republican incumbents opting not to seek reelection, Democrats have branded those exits a “Texodus.”

Two of the three GOP incumbents in the targeted races had higher disapproval than approval ratings, the PPP surveys found. 

McCaul had a 32 percent job approval rating compared to 37 percent disapproval in the 10th District. Thirty percent of those surveyed in the 21st District approved of Roy’s job performance, compared to 35 percent who disapproved. Carter had a net positive rating in the 31st District, with 38 percent approving and 37 percent disapproving. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates all six Texas races as competitive: the 23rd District as Leans Democratic, the 22nd and 24th districts Tilt Republican, the 31st District Leans Republican, and the 10th and 21st districts Likely Republican.

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