Latest poll: John Cornyn vulnerable, MJ Hegar leading Democratic field

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A newly-released University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll shows Sen. John Cornyn’s job performance is underwater with voters in the Lone Star State, and a scrambled field for the Democratic nomination to challenge him. 

Just 36 percent of voters approve of Cornyn’s job performance, while 39 percent disapprove. A quarter of those surveyed could not or would not rate him.

The same poll also shows that former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar has emerged as the clear frontrunner in the primary race. The poll shows Hegar with 22 percent of support from self-identified Democratic primary voters in Texas. Hegar holds a double-digit lead over the next closest candidate, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who garners 9 percent of support. 

This week’s poll is obviously good news for Hegar, who has created real separation from the rest of the field, likely by raising the most money in the race and being the only candidate to invest in TV ad buys. In addition, Hegar has benefitted from a $3.3 million ad buy from VoteVets to boost her candidacy.

Nonetheless, while her lead likely assures a runoff spot in the race, it by no means guarantees the nomination. At 22 percent, Hegar is well short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, and with early voting set to begin this week and a dozen candidates on the ballot, it’s an open question which two Democrats, most likely including Hegar, will head to a runoff in late May. It’s difficult to determine who is likely to claim that second runoff spot since, besides Hegar, all other candidates are polling between 1 to 3 percentage points away from each other, within the margin of error.

Despite the race finally producing a frontrunner, all candidates continue to suffer from name recognition problems. The same UT-Texas Tribune polling shows only a third of Texans have heard of Hegar, with even less name recognition for the other candidates vying for second place. Likewise, 56 percent of Democrats in the poll did not express a preference when asked how they would vote.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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