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How close is the race for Texas governor? According to these experts, closer than the polls suggest

A recent poll from the University of Houston showed a 13% gap between Beto O'Rourke and Greg Abbott, although other polls have a smaller difference.

SAN ANTONIO — A new poll shows governor Greg Abbott is leading Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

The University of Houston poll released one week before Election Day shows Abbott leading by 13 percentage points. However, two political science professors believe the lead is not as large as it appears.

Our two political scientists are Henry Flores, a political science expert and professor emeritus at St. Mary’s, and Jon Taylor, chair of the political science and geography department at UT San Antonio.

Both say the race is still too close to call.

“Most polling suggests anywhere between, say, a 4-to-6-point race,” Taylor said its telling that Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are campaigning in West Texas, traditionally the reddest of areas in the state.

Both political scientists say voter turnout will be a deciding factor.

Taylor says changes to mail in ballots and other election laws impact turnout.

“We’ve reduced the amount of time for early voting to only one weekend rather than two, and so you do have opportunities, but not nearly the opportunities you had two, let alone, four years ago,” Taylor adds. 

In Bexar County for example, elections administrator Jacque Callanen told KENS 5 that turnout is about 13% down compared to the 2018 midterms, despite having a higher number of registered voters.

Voter demographics could also play a key role in deciding the race.

“If some white voters stay home then the Latino vote can actually move the needle at that point, and O’Rourke might have a chance. Or, if the Latino voters stay home, I don’t think O’Rourke has a chance,” Flores added.

It’s not just turnout—but the issues affecting voters that could influence the race. According to the UH Poll, Republicans have concerns about crime and inflation.

“Democrats had the chance with Uvalde and with abortion to perhaps capture the imagination of younger voters and more urban voters. At the same time, when inflation and gas prices started cutting into things, and issues Republican raised about immigration, that cut into the Democrats message,” Taylor adds.

Although polls show a gap between Abbott and O’Rourke—the race will remain competitive until election day is over, and Taylor says Texas is not as red as it was in previous gubernatorial races.

“That’s why Republicans are worried and why you see Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and Attorney General Paxton all really hitting hard negative advertising because they know these are much closer races,” Taylor adds.

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