The marquee race on the Texas ballot this cycle is Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election bid against Democratic former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Texas is a traditionally Republican state and Abbott is widely expected to win re-election next week. Still, the state has purpled in recent years and an upset, while unlikely, is possible.
Most recent polls of the race show Abbott, currently in his second term, with majority support. The RealClearPolitics average, which is based on multiple polls, shows the incumbent with 51% support to O’Rourke’s 43%.
Though there are a few polls that show Abbott under the 50% mark, no reputable pollster has placed his lead within the margin of error, and none have shown O’Rourke with more than 46% support.
In 2018, when O’Rourke challenged Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, he did overperform the polls by about 2%, though the end result was a 51%-48% loss. The outcome was considered impressive for Democrats, who for years had struggled to field a competitive candidate in a statewide race.
In the four years since that election, Democrats have outpaced Republicans in voter registrations. L2 voter data shows about 1.74 million new voters have registered as Democrats since the 2018 General Election compared to 918,000 who have registered as Republicans. Another 881,000 Texans registered as third- or no-party voters in the same stretch.
But in terms of actual votes, Republicans so far have the advantage. L2 voter data shows that as of Oct. 29, about 1.4 million Texans had already cast their ballots either in person or by mail. Republicans comprise about 800,000 (57%) of total votes cast, while Democrats account for 542,000 (39%). The other 4% of completed ballots were turned in by third- and no-party voters.
As previously reported, the outcome of the election could hinge on whether less active voters — namely Black Democrats in the state’s major metros — show up at the polls to vote for O’Rourke.
When O’Rourke ran for U.S. Senate four years ago, his engagement with the Black community led to a sharp rise in turnout in the Houston area — from 31% to 41% — and helped him close the gap with Cruz.
The campaign has been pouring resources into Houston’s super neighborhoods. And for good reason. L2 voter data shows more than 2.4 million registered voters live within the county’s borders, including approximately 370,000 Black voters — that equates to about a quarter of Black voters statewide.
Likewise, the state has shown a marked increase in youth turnout over the past several cycles. A mere 8% of 18- to 29-year-old Texas voters cast a ballot in the 2014 Midterm Election, but that number tripled in 2018. In the last two Presidential Elections, turnout increased by 13 points, from 28% to 41%.
Another substantial increase could flip the narrative in multiple down-ballot races, and potentially lead to a tighter-than-expected result in the Governor race.