Is O'Rourke headed for an Election Day wipeout?

Is O'Rourke headed for an Election Day wipeout?
AP Photo/LM Otero

A lot can happen in seven weeks, but a new poll of the Texas governor’s race shows Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke in serious trouble, and his strategy of pushing gun control in the wake of the murders at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde doesn’t appear to be drawing many voters to his side. The Dallas Morning News survey of Texas voters, however, isn’t all good news for Second Amendment supporters, with the poll finding majority support for at least one of the gun control policies O’Rourke’s been trumpeting on the campaign trail.

According to the survey, 64% of respondents either strongly” or moderately support raising the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, with 50% favoring the measure “a great deal”, compared to 27% who are strongly opposed. That’s the most popular gun control measure polled by the DMN, with strong and moderate support for a “buyback” of lawfully owned semi-automatic rifles topping out at 39%. Still, only 35% of respondents were either strongly or moderately opposed to the idea, and less than half of all Republicans surveyed were adamantly against a mandatory “buyback”.

I suspect those numbers would change dramatically if there was a serious attempt to impose a compensated confiscation program in the state of Texas, but after a high-profile tragedy like Uvalde it stands to reason that there would be some voters who are now more open to the idea of new gun control laws in the name of public safety. I think they’re mistaken if they think that we can ban and arrest our way to safety by criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms, but I also understand the emotional appeal of the anti-gun messaging, particularly among non-gun owning voters.

The biggest problem for Robert Francis O’Rourke is that, while a lot of Texas voters are willing to consider new gun laws, they’re unwilling to vote for him on Election Day. Not only is O’Rourke underwater in terms of his favorability at 40/47, he’s trailing Greg Abbott by double digits in head-to-head polling among those most likely to cast a ballot this year.

Despite Democats trying to make abortion the top issue among the electorate, Abbott still has a two-point advantage with women voters over O’Rourke, and he’s nearly tied with “Beto” among Hispanic voters as well. Parents are also breaking for Abbott by ten-points, which suggests that O’Rourke is losing the debate over which party will best protect children. In fact, Abbott is polling far better than O’Rourke on almost every issue presented to survey respondents.

Those are some absolutely brutal numbers for O’Rourke, especially when it comes to the biggest issues on the minds of Texas voters; the border, the economy, and crime. On the Texas-centric issue of the electric grid, however, O’Rourke does no better than getting within the margin of error with Abbott, despite the Democrat making it another central component of his campaign.

O’Rourke has hammered Abbott for months over the management of the grid. In response to a conservation warning ahead of a May heat wave, he wrote on Twitter that “the governor of the 9th largest economy on earth – the energy capital of the world – can’t guarantee the power will stay on tomorrow.”

O’Rourke’s website promises to “redesign the power grid to prioritize Texas families, not wealthy energy corporations.” He also pledges a robust plan that includes more investment in renewable energy, weatherization to shore up the grid from future storms and connecting Texas’ main grid to other states.

The fact that Democratic-controlled California has its own woes with its electric grid may make the issue a wash in the eyes of many voters, and the issue just isn’t as important as the out-of-control situation on the border, the wobbling economy, and the rise in violent crime over the past couple of years. On each and every one of those issues Abbott is seen as more effective than O’Rourke, who’s only leading the incumbent when it comes to who would do a better job of bringing people together. Even there, the one point advantage that O’Rourke currently holds is within the margin of error and nothing to write home about.

While Abbott has never trailed O’Rourke in public polling, this is one of the best results yet for the Republican. Second Amendment supporters shouldn’t get too cocky, however, and they definitely shouldn’t get complacent. There have been multiple surveys in Texas showing majority support for additional gun control measures like raising the age to purchase modern sporting rifles, and even if Gun Ban Beto goes down to defeat in November we have a lot of work to do to educate non-gun owners on why the anti-2A plans he and other Democrats hold dear are a bad idea from both a constitutional and public safety perspective.