Posted on July 30, 2012 at 6:05 PM
Updated today at 6:26 PM
DALLAS â" With polls opening Tuesday morning in the red-hot Republican runoff for U.S. Senate, momentum â" or the perception of momentum â" has become critical for the campaigns of Lt. Gov.Â David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
The campaigns are touting separate polls with opposing results to claim their candidate is ahead charging into the runoff.
The Dewhurst campaign released more details Monday afternoon of an internal campaign poll by Texas pollster Baselice and Associates that has done extensive surveying for Gov. Rick Perry and other statewide candidates of GOP voters.
Not surprisingly, the Baselice poll of 704 likely Republican primary voters interviewed July 26-29 found Dewhurst leading Cruz 48 percent to 44 percent.
That sharply contrasts with an independent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) released Sunday night, which showed Cruz aheadÂ 52 percent to 42 percent.
PPP surveys are conducted through automated telephone interviews, and some pollsters believe that methodology is not as accurate as live, person-to-person interviews.
Internal campaign polls are viewed skeptically, considering who pays for them.
In a memo to Texas reporters, Dewhurst advisors Dave Carney and Jim Bognet implied the Baselice survey is more credible, although they did not release detailed cross tabs of the entire survey.
"We thought you may be interested in taking a look at the only Texas poll fresh from the field last night, performed with live operators and by Baselice & Associates, which has more experience surveying Texas Republicans than any pollster in the country," the memo said.
The Dewhurst camp cites strong support from senior voters as a critical factor Tuesday, with Dewhurst ahead among seniors 55 percent to 38 percent.
The Dewhurst memo concludes: "In 28 major counties, 66 percent of the voters who voted early last week are over the age of 60. David Dewhurst is beating Ted Cruz by double digits among seniors. Seniors are most likely to vote in any election, and among early voters, are voting by an even larger than normal margin. We are confident we are going into tomorrow morning with a lead. And we are confident that we will decisively win the Election Day voting tomorrow."
Regardless of the polls, Cruz is riding a surge that solidified just before the May 29 primary, which launched him into the runoff, and that has continued through three televised debates since then. He's been bolstered by millions in TV ads spent by his campaign and super PACs airing supportive ads for him.
Even according to Dewhurst's own poll, the finish will be close â" likely in the single digits with many unknown variables remaining: How large will election day turnout be?Â And how many voters who didn't cast a ballot at all in May will be drawn to vote in the bitter but exciting race?
Cruz conducted several radio interviews Monday, while Dewhurst campaigned in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, where he was joined by Perry and former primary foes Tom Leppert and Craig James.
Dewhurst and Cruz both scheduled Houston campaign stops on Tuesday, and then will wait for results after the polls close at 7 p.m.
That's when we'll find out which pollster accurately forecast the outcome.