One of the most common electoral memes on the right is that the more conservative the candidate, the better the chance for and bigger the victory. The theory is that stronger conservative rhetoric drives more base voters to the polls who might otherwise stay home if they feel uninspired by a milquetoast candidate. It makes sense, but it doesn’t often work.
Friday morning the Texas Tribune released its latest poll of the statewide races, and conservatives were quick to use it to justify their strategy.
— BattleSwarm (@BattleSwarmBlog) June 20, 2014
And this is true. Dan Patrick, who is running for Lieutenant Governor leads Van de Putte by 15, while Greg Abbott, who is running for Governor, leads Davis by “only” 12. Patrick is much more conservative than Abbott, though this still being Texas, both men are very conservative.
However, the full numbers show that this is only half the story, and it undercuts the strong conservative narrative.
Patrick leads Van de Putte 41-26, and Abbott leads Davis 44-32. Abbott actually has more overallsupport than Patrick. Patrick only leads his opponent by more because she polls so terribly. Wendy Davis is basically the only Democrat running statewide that anyone in Texas knows, and she polls consistently in the 30s. No other Democrat gets more than 27% in the rest of the statewide races. So Patrick isn’t winning by more than Abbott because of his strong conservative bonafides, but because no one knows who the hell his opponent is.
Also of note is the third party candidate support on each ballot. In the governor’s race, the Libertarian Party and “Someone else” candidates each have 3% support, but in the lt gov race each one gets 4%. This could be from the lower name recognition of Patrick and Van de Putte, which might drop a few voters off the two main party ballots, or it could be that each of them has less actual support (which their own numbers suggest so far), and so a handful of Republicans are deliberately dropping to the Libertarian and Democrats to “Someone else”. If so, that only further erodes the idea that the more conservative candidate would win the most support.
There is one big caveat to all this analysis, of course. This is still only a poll. The real result will be turnout in the election in November. If Patrick’s firebrand conservatism can really turn out more voters, that would be one thing, but so far the numbers aren’t bearing it out as some hoped and others still suggest.