Beto O’Rourke got some interesting polling news over the weekend, and it had nothing to do with his bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in Texas. O’Rourke, the West Texas congressman who’s shattering fundraising records and earning an outsized amount of national media attention, was included in a CNN poll of the 2020 Democratic primary field. O’Rourke, who hasn’t even hinted that he’s pursuing a presidential bid and who told the Texas Tribune last month that he was committed to serving a full six-year term in the Senate, was nowhere near the top of the field. But the poll found him ahead of several candidates who are expected to launch campaigns.
The poll found former Vice President Joe Biden with 33 percent of the vote — a 20-percentage-point lead over Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was in second place with 13 percent. The poll found O’Rourke at 4 percent, tied with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for seventh place.
Though O’Rourke has made no clear moves to lay the groundwork for a presidential bid, he’s ahead of several candidates who are either widely considered likely to run or who have said publicly that they’re open to running. Among them: former Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s said he’s considering a run; attorney Michael Avenatti, who has been visiting early primary states and said he’s exploring a run; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who prediction markets view as highly likely to run; and congressman John Delaney of Maryland, the only person in the field who’s already formally declared his candidacy. The poll found Holder at 3 percent and Avenatti and Gillibrand at just 1 percent apiece.
A “Beto O’Rourke for president” candidacy at this point seems far-fetched by any measurable standard. At the online prediction market PredictIt, you can wager on whether Michelle Obama, Oprah or Kanye will run, but there isn’t even a market open for O’Rourke. (By my count, among the people who haven’t already declaed their candidacies, the only people included in the CNN poll who don’t have a market on PredictIt are O’Rourke, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Montana governor Steve Bullock.) Still, the poll gives us a small window into how O’Rourke is playing among potential Democratic primary voters.
Highlights of Beto O’Rourke’s Support in the CNN Poll
The CNN poll, conducted October 4-7 by the research firm SSRS, breaks down respondents in some cases by gender, race, age, ideology, and whether respondents are enthusiastic about voting in the upcoming midterm elections, among other factors. The data here is somewhat limited. For instance: There’s a breakout for respondents older than 45, but the poll doesn’t have breakouts for more narrowly defined age ranges.
The poll found some substantial differences between candidates across these groups. For instance, CNN polling director Jennifer Agiesta points out that Biden’s lead over Sanders and the rest of the field is widest among voters older than 45. The poll also found Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, faring better among Democratic-leaning independents than among self-identified Democrats. Among ideological subgroups, Biden’s lead was widest among respondents who considered themselves moderate or conservative.
When it comes to O’Rourke, there aren’t stark differences along lines of age or race, though his support is much stronger among women than among men. One area where O’Rourke does especially well: He earned 7 percent of the vote among voters who said they were enthusiastic about voting in next month’s midterms — a group especially likely to be familiar with O’Rourke given the exhaustive media attention he’s received this cycle.
Here’s how O’Rourke fared among subgroups:
- O’Rorke had support from 5 percent of women but only 2 percent of men.
- O’Rourke had support from 5 percent of respondents older than 45.
- O’Rourke had support from 5 percent of white respondents. (There are not breakdowns of other racial groups.)
- O’Rourke had support from 6 percent of respondents earning more than $50,000 per year.
- O’Rourke had the support of 6 percent of self-identified Democrats and 5 percent of liberals.
- O’Rourke had support from 7 percent of respondents who said they were enthusiastic to vote next month.