No matter which Democrat runs against John Cornyn, he’s in trouble

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A new NBC News-Marist poll released Sunday shows U.S. Senate candidate MJ Hegar leading the field with 16 percent of support among likely Democratic primary voters in Texas. 

The results mirror what other polls this month have all shown: Hegar in the lead as the race’s clear front-runner, but is far from securing a 50 percent majority.

Going into Super Tuesday, the former Air Force helicopter and congressional candidate has benefited from a strong fundraising lead — $2.6 million above her closest opponent — and by a sizable ad buy from the VoteVets super PAC. 

Despite her lead, unless Hegar is somehow able to expand her vote share by roughly 30 percentage points on Super Tuesday, the race will head to a runoff between her and one other candidate.

So far, it’s anyone’s guess as to who that second candidate might be. The NBC News-Marist poll shows both progressive activist Cristina Tzintzún Ramírez and State Sen. Royce West tied for second place with 9 and 8 percent of the vote, respectively. 

Tzintzún Ramírez has received the bulk of the endorsements from progressive groups and campaigns, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the latter of which recently began aiding Tzintzún Ramírez with her grassroots PAC, Courage to Change. State Sen. Royce West meanwhile has received the endorsements of the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and nearly all of his Democratic Senate colleagues. 

But other candidates are within striking distance of that second place spot too, including Congressman Chris Bell who told the Signal reaching the runoff would revitalize the cash flow of his campaign and make the race competitive. 

By and large, the leading problem for candidates in the primary has been that of name recognition. A University of Houston poll released last week shows more than half of likely Texas Democratic Primary voters don’t know enough about the candidate to have an opinion.

Nevertheless, one piece of good news for undecided Democrats Sen. John Cornyn is that vulnerable regardless of which Democrat clinches the nomination to challenge him. A Univision poll released Friday shows the incumbent Republican Senator is in dead heat against a generic Democrat in a head to head matchup that surveyed registered voters. 

The top two finishers of the Democratic Senate primary will head to a runoff on May 26.

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

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