Texas Senate: Can Dewhurst Hit 50 Percent in Primary?

Stuart Rothenberg May 24, 2012 · 1:56 PM EDT

A new Public Policy Polling survey confirms what I am hearing elsewhere: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is close – but still short – of getting more than 50 percent of the vote in Texas’ May 29 Republican Senate primary, which would allow him to avoid a runoff.

The May 22-23 survey of 482 likely GOP primary voters conducted by PPP, a North Carolina-based Democratic firm, shows Dewhurst leading former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz 46 percent to 29 percent, with Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert third at 15 percent and television sports broadcaster Craig James at just 2 percent.

A private GOP poll also shows the lieutenant governor in the mid to high 40s and within striking distance of the crucial 50 percent mark.

Most insiders believe that Dewhurst will place first comfortably in the primary but will fall just short of avoiding a runoff.

Still, Dewhurst’s new attack on Leppert, a businessman whose voters might well be more comfortable with Dewhurst than with the more combative, ideological Cruz, suggests that the lieutenant governor’s campaign believes that it can pull enough Leppert voters over to Dewhurst in the primary’s final days to help him avoid a one-on-one runoff against Cruz. In fact, PPP found that Leppert voters prefer Dewhurst to Cruz by a margin of almost 6-to1.