Most Democrats Lead in Harris County

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If you believe the poll, Democrats may carry the day, for the most part, in Harris County this Tuesday night.

The poll conducted for KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio indicates Obama leads Romney in Harris County, but not by much.  That gives some indication how election night might go for politicians running for offices that are down the ballot.

The poll shows the president leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney's 42 percent.  Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler's 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County.  With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that's a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.

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Nonetheless, the poll revealed that large numbers of voters allied with both parties are breaking away from casting straight-ticket ballots in two high-profile races.  In both campaigns, Republicans and Democrats are eschewing party loyalty to vote against candidates who've been hit with waves of bad publicity.

The two races where voters break away from their parties are Sheriff and District Attorney. Sheriff Adrian Garcia (D) is up 51-32, and Republican District Attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who faces a little qualified Democrat, is up 41-35. Both races find cross-over support in the poll.  The pollster, Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, suggested that the much bigger lead for Garcia compared to Anderson might mean that Republicans might be more willing to split their tickets in Harris. Kuff brings up another possibility, however; that Adrian Garcia has a better message to Harris County voters than Mike Anderson and has campaigned more effectively, too.

Overall, this is still good news for Harris County Democrats. We'll see on Tuesday, but the news of this poll combined with some of the heaviest early voting turnout in the state indicate positive trends for the Democrats with less than one week remaining.

And there may be at least a little bit of truth to Bob Stein's hypothesis. Topline data (hat-tip to Kuff for getting this) shows that of the respondents who plan to vote straight ticket, 56% plan to pull the Democratic lever compared to 41% for Republicans. Not only is this good news for Democrats like Adrian Garcia; but also for candidates in even smaller districts, like Ann Johnson, where statewide Republicans have a better history of success.

Harris County is certainly not a shoe-in for either party, though. Only 5 days left.  

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