AUSTIN - A new poll from the University of Houston may have Texas Republicans more nervous heading into a presidential election than they have in decades.
According to the University of Houston poll, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has support from 41 percent of the state’s likely voters to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 38 percent support in the state. Given the poll’s margin of error of +/- 3 percent, the presidential race in Texas is a statistical tie.
Past the top two candidates, the poll found that 3 percent of Texans won’t choose either Clinton or Trump and 11 percent of the voters said they still don’t know who they will vote for on Nov. 8. The high number of undecided voters leaves both candidates with plenty of work to do in the state to sure up a win.
The UH poll comes just days after TEGNA released results from its Survey USA poll in Texas that showed Trump with a four-point lead in the Lone Star State over Clinton. The TEGNA poll also was a statistical tie because it was inside the poll’s margin of error of four points.
According to the UH poll, the independent voters will make the ultimate call on Election Day. The poll found 29 percent of independent voters in Texas were still undecided about who they will pick for president. Currently, Clinton leads Trump in independent voters by a 30 percent to 14 percent margin.
Based on the new polls, the nomination of Trump to the top of the Republican ticket has put one of the GOP’s safest states into play. No Republican presidential candidate since 2000 has carried Texas by less than 10 points. The last Democrat to win the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
However, Texas has only voted with the winning presidential candidate twice in the last six elections, both were wins for former Texas Governor and President George W. Bush. Prior to 1992, Texas voted for the presidential winner in every election dating back to 1976.
In the last five polls of Texas, Trump’s lead has shrunk from six points in mid-September to the latest poll showing just a three-point lead in mid-October.
The potential of Texas turning blue has long been a dream of Democrats at the national level as flipping Texas would essentially halt any Republican from having an easy path to the White House. Based on the recent Electoral College voting history, a Republican would struggle to win the presidency without Texas.
California has turned safely Democrat along with New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, all delegate-rich states. Florida remains a swing state with 29 Electoral College votes along with Ohio’s 18 votes. Still, Texas’ 38 Electoral College votes would guarantee a Democratic victory should they hold other states expected to go blue.
The new polling and the possibility of flipping Texas goes a long way to explaining why Clinton recently made an investment in political advertising in Texas in the final weeks of the campaign.
But Texas isn't the only red state that is problematic for the Trump campaign. Trump is facing another polling challenge in the state of Utah, but not just from Clinton.
According to a recent Salt Lake City-based Y2 Analytics poll, Clinton and Trump are tied in Utah at 26 percent with independent Republican Evan McMullin just behind both of them at 22 percent. This poll, conducted Oct. 10-11, had a sample size of 500 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.
A separate Rasmussen Poll from Utah finds that Trump has support from 30 percent of the voters in Utah to Clinton’s 28 percent with McMullin occupying the spoiler role at 29 percent in the race. The Rasmussen Utah poll with the race tied found four percent of voters undecided. This poll was conducted Oct. 14-16, had a sample of 750 likely voters and a +/- of 4 percent.
Two other polls conducted by CBS News/YouGov and Monmouth University show Trump polling outside the margin of error. The CBS poll shows Trump with a 17-point lead over Clinton and McMullin, and the Monmouth poll has Trump with a six-point lead over Clinton and 14-point lead over McMullin. The CBS poll was conducted Oct. 12-14, involved 951 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent. The Oct. 10-12 Monmouth poll involved 403 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.
Rasmussen said the poll found Trump leading McMullin among Republicans by a 45-38 percent margin compared to Clinton receiving 87 percent support from Democrats. Clinton and McMullin were tied in independents at 28 percent apiece with Trump just behind at 23 percent.
A Democrat hasn’t won the state of Utah since 1964.
One other Republican stronghold may be in play on Election Day: Arizona. According to the latest polling from Arizona, the race is anywhere between a one-point lead for Trump to a two-point lead for Hillary or a tie.
The latest poll released Tuesday found the race a dead heat. The Washington Post/Survey Monkey poll found Trump ahead by one percent over Clinton in Arizona. When you expand the election to include the third and fourth party candidates, Trump’s lead in Arizona went up to three points, still inside the poll’s margin of error.
Arizona has supported a Democratic presidential candidate just once in the last 40 years, President Bill Clinton in 1996. But, much like Utah and Texas, Hillary Clinton has started to invest money in television advertising in the state in hopes of turning it blue on Election Day.
The polls showing tightening races in Republican strongholds could be another red flag for the Trump campaign as the presidential election enters the final three weeks on Tuesday. Trump’s deficit nationally has grown to between six and eight points to Clinton, a lead no presidential candidate in the last 100 years has overcome this close to an election.
However, this has been a year with plenty of firsts in it and anything is possible as Nov. 8 draws near. With the slow drip of emails from Clinton’s campaign staffer continuing through Wikileaks and Trump’s difficulty in staying on message and avoiding scandals, anything can happen in the last weeks of the campaign.
The only poll that will ultimately matter is the one completed Nov. 8.
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