The Context for Texans' Roles in Obstructing the Counting of Electoral College Votes

Senator Ted Cruz is leading the charge in the effort to delay the official tallying and certification of the Electoral College votes in the U.S. Senate today, with a large chunk of Texas’ Congressional delegation set to do their part in objecting to the ratification of the 2020 presidential election. Given the widespread attention in the Texas press and elsewhere to Texans' roles in the feckless policial theater being staged in Washington today, it’s helpful to look at the electoral and publical opinion context shaping the stances of the Texas players in the dramatization of what is typically a routine ratification of the presidential election. (An election, we should note, in which Joe Biden received over 7 million more votes than Donald Trump, and received 74 more electoral votes than the incumbent.) 

The clarity of Biden’s victory makes the seeming determination of some Texas Republicans to challenge its validity and legitimacy, even as others seem more than ready to move on, all the more important to understand. Different Texas actors in the latest phase of the presidential election have different and even multiple motivations. But a look at some of the contextual data helps illuminate why so many Texas Republicans in Congress seem determined to place more stress on a Constitutional system they otherwise seem intent on defending as exceptional and under siege from others who don’t respect it enough.

Ted Cruz

The nearly universal assumption, despite his denials, is that Cruz’s leadership in calling for an “emergency audit” of the election results is motivated by his presidential ambitions in 2024. Cruz’s 2016 ambitions were rudely interrupted, then crudely hijacked when Trump usurped Cruz’s plan to be the insurgent anti-system candidate. Cruz enters the fight still secure in his home state despite national coverage of him that ranges from skeptical to sneering, as his approval numbers among Republicans and conservatives illustrate. Cruz would be up for re-election to the Senate in 2024, so another presidential run would either mean an invocation of the LBJ rule, or, more likely given the backlog of Republican elected officials looking to move up, an open senate seat in Texas. In this light, it should be noted that, setting aside the fact that overtunring the Electoral College result would be the most severe institutional crisis since the Civil War, it is not and has never been in Cruz's interest for Trump to serve another term. That's not what he is after here.

Loading chart...
Approve strongly31%
Approve somewhat15%
Neither approve nor disapprove8%
Disapprove somewhat6%
Disapprove strongly36%
Don't know4%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly3%14%61%
Approve somewhat5%9%24%
Neither approve nor disapprove9%13%5%
Disapprove somewhat9%9%3%
Disapprove strongly70%47%5%
Don't know4%8%2%

Loading chart...
CategoryLean conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly39%59%78%
Approve somewhat34%28%14%
Neither approve nor disapprove6%4%2%
Disapprove somewhat10%2%0%
Disapprove strongly9%5%5%
Don't know2%1%0%

John Cornyn

Cornyn has earned the ire of a lame duck president Trump by not joining in with Cruz’s bunch, and by actually speaking almost dismissively of it, though one shouldn’t overstate the degree to which Cornyn has taken the lead in the counter-resistance within the GOP caucus. As Elvia Limón summarized in the Texas Tribune’s email "Brief," Cornyn enters the fray in a very different position than Cruz: “Cornyn is coming off a reelection victory in November that secured him another six-year term in the Senate, while Cruz has an eye toward 2024, when any presidential contender will likely need to stay in the good graces of Trump and his supporters.” Cornyn defeated a well-funded if under-tooled M.J. Hegar by more than 9 points in 2020, and doesn’t have to face either GOP primary voters or general election voters until 2026 (should he choose to). He is also a member of the GOP leadership team in the U.S. Senate, and was unlikely to deviate from the position of majority leader Mitch McConnell, who also opposes Cruz’s efforts.

Loading chart...
Approve strongly18%
Approve somewhat21%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%
Disapprove somewhat11%
Disapprove strongly28%
Don't know10%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly3%9%33%
Approve somewhat4%10%38%
Neither approve nor disapprove11%21%9%
Disapprove somewhat14%17%7%
Disapprove strongly57%29%4%
Don't know11%14%9%

Loading chart...
CategoryLean conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly25%27%44%
Approve somewhat37%46%29%
Neither approve nor disapprove12%10%9%
Disapprove somewhat9%6%6%
Disapprove strongly8%5%6%
Don't know9%6%5%

The Texas Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives

While we don't have polling data at the congressional district level, we can look at some of the contextual factors that might matter to Texas' Republican Congressional Delegation as they consider their attempts to strike at the heart of the Democratic process. Per Patrick Svitek's coverage in The Texas Tribune, 10 of the 23 GOP members have signaled they will object to certification, as indicated in red in the table below.

Texas' Republican Congressional Delegation
CD Representative Number of Terms (up to 2018 in the District) 2020 Vote Share 2018 Vote Share 2020 Vote Share - 2018 Vote Share Share of 2020 Primary Vote
1 LOUIE GOHMERT 8 0.7258 0.7226 0.0032 0.8967
2 DAN CRENSHAW 1 0.5561 0.5284 0.0277 1.0
3 VAN TAYLOR 1 0.5507 0.5424 0.0083 1.0
4 PAT FALLON 0 0.7514 0.757 -0.0056 1.0
5 LANCE GOODEN 1 0.6199 0.6234 -0.0035 0.8343
6 RON WRIGHT 1 0.528 0.531 -0.003 1.0
8 KEVIN BRADY 12 0.7251 0.7344 -0.0093 0.8073
10 MICHAEL MCCAUL 8 0.5248 0.5106 0.0142 1.0
11 AUSTIN PFLUGER 0 0.7971 0.8014 -0.0043 0.5221
12 KAY GRANGER 12 0.6372 0.6427 -0.0055 0.5802
13 RONNY JACKSON 12 0.7938 0.8154 -0.0216 0.1996
14 RANDY WEBER 4 0.6164 0.5924 0.024 0.8541
17 PETE SESSIONS 0 0.5585 0.5681 -0.0096 0.3161
19 JODEY C. ARRINGTON 2 0.7478 0.7523 -0.0045 0.8944
21 CHIP ROY 1 0.5195 0.5024 0.0171 1.0
22 TROY NEHLS 0 0.5153 0.5136 0.0017 0.4045
23 TONY GONZALES 0 0.5056 0.4917 0.0139 0.2811
24 BETH VAN DUYNE 0 0.4881 0.5061 -0.018 0.6433
25 ROGER WILLIAMS 4 0.5593 0.5353 0.024 0.8757
26 MICHAEL C. BURGESS 8 0.6061 0.5938 0.0123 0.736
27 MICHAEL CLOUD 1 0.6306 0.6032 0.0274 1.0
31 JOHN CARTER 4 0.5343 0.5059 0.0284 0.8228
36 BRIAN BABIN 3 0.7361 0.7256 0.0105 0.8956

(Red = Have indcated they will object to Electoral College certification.)

Trump in Texas

On the eve of the 2020 Election, Donald Trump's overall job approval in Texas stood at 49%, with 46% disapproving, compared with an overall approval rating of 46% for Cruz (42% disapproving), and 39% for Cornyn (39% disapproving). It's worth noting, in the case of Cornyn, the weaker underlying attitudes tied to his job approval, with only 18% approving strongly, compared to 31% for Cruz and 33% for Trump. Among Republicans, the primary audience for today's theater, approval of Trump is astronomical. Ninety percent of Republican voters heading into the 2020 election said that they approved of the job Trump was doing as president, including 63% who said that they strongly approved. This compared with approval ratings of 85% for Cruz (61% strongly approve), but only 71% approval for Cornyn, with only 33% strongly approving.

Loading chart...
Approve strongly33%
Approve somewhat16%
Neither approve nor disapprove4%
Disapprove somewhat5%
Disapprove strongly41%
Don't know0%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly3%20%63%
Approve somewhat4%11%27%
Neither approve nor disapprove4%13%2%
Disapprove somewhat7%11%2%
Disapprove strongly82%42%6%
Don't know0%2%0%

Loading chart...
CategoryLean conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly40%53%81%
Approve somewhat34%36%13%
Neither approve nor disapprove2%2%0%
Disapprove somewhat5%4%0%
Disapprove strongly17%5%6%
Don't know1%0%0%

Election skepticism among Texas Republicans

Ultimately, despite the repeated lack of evidence provided by Trump, his lawyers, and his defenders, the belief among Republicans that election fraud is rampant, constant, and serious, is something that we've documented here extensively. Below are a few highlights. 

Loading chart...
Don't know/No opinion10%16%8%

Loading chart...
Extremely serious17%36%60%
Somewhat serious13%16%21%
Not too serious19%15%9%
Not at all serious47%19%6%
Don't know4%14%3%

Loading chart...
Extremely serious18%34%55%
Somewhat serious14%14%25%
Not too serious15%16%11%
Not at all serious49%21%6%
Don't know3%15%3%

Loading chart...
Extremely serious30%43%53%
Somewhat serious27%19%28%
Not too serious23%15%12%
Not at all serious17%9%3%
Don't know3%13%3%