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Cal Jillson, Political Science, If Texas Senate race is ‘about the base,’ who’s wooing independents? Are any left?

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: October 29, 2018

As Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke crisscrossed the piney woods of East Texas late last week, Matt Steveson and Caleb Krnavek were curious attendees at rallies.

Steveson, a Marine combat veteran of Iraq who works as a millwright on overseas power plants, said he wanted to see O’Rourke unfiltered.

“Video could possibly be manipulated,” he explained at a crowded O’Rourke event at The Pines Theater in his hometown of Lufkin.

 Krnavek, a college student, wore a Beto t-shirt to a morning Cruz rally at Austin Hall, a honky tonk in Nacogdoches.

“I’m not a super far left or super far right guy,” said the Stephen F. Austin University junior geography major. “I just want to hear both sides speak.”

Eager to see the genuine article on the stump, Steveson and Krnavek were oddities in another way. Each already had voted for the other guy, not the candidate whose spiel and schtick he was checking out.

According to political scientists, the two young East Texas voters illustrate a now deeply ingrained trend in statewide contests: Highly engaged citizens are almost entirely locked up by the two sides, in many cases months before Election Day.

As “high information” voters, Steveson and Krnavek are more typical of devoted partisans on each side, even though each said he has ambivalent feelings about his current party.

Texas voters who are true independents generally have less information about politics, said Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson.

“Real independents are not the sort of romantic independents that people think about who are willing to look at both parties’ candidates and study their issue positions and make an informed decision,” he said. “Those kind of people are exceedingly rare.” READ MORE