Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Democratic challenger is within single digits, according to a new poll. Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

A new poll paid for by Democratic Political Action Committee End Citizens United shows Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, within single digits of his likely Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found Cruz ahead of O’Rourke 45 to 37 percent among 757 Texas voters polled by phone and online. It also may have revealed at least one reason for Sen. Cruz’s apparent weakness.

Some questions in the poll focused on the influence of special interest money in Texas, which 53 percent of respondents thought was a “major problem” in the state and only three percent said was “not a problem at all.” Nearly half of those polled, at 48 percent, think Ted Cruz is more responsive to “big campaign donors” than “ordinary Texans,” compared to 33 percent who believe the incumbent senator is more responsive to ordinary Texans.

O’Rourke has pledged not to take any money from PACs — not just corporate PACs, but also grassroots fundraising PACs, such as End Citizens United. A spokesperson for End Citizens United told told International Business Times that it conducted the poll independently and without coordinating with O’Rourke’s campaign. Cruz, in contrast, has accepted more than $1.3 million from the PACs of corporations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

When made aware of that figure and told that O’Rourke is not accepting money from PACs, O’Rourke pulled slightly ahead of Cruz among those polled at 43 to 41 percent. But with a polling question like that, it is worth noting the unreliable nature of leading questions. Public Policy Polling gives its margin of error as plus or minus 3.6 percent, wider than the slight edge O’Rourke has over Cruz in that question and possibly pulling Cruz’s initial lead back to double digits.

Beto O'Rourke
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) offers an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on July 12, 2017. Getty Images

Cruz has repeatedly come under fire for his ties to special interest and this latest poll indicates his image among Texas voters has taken a hit for it. Cruz, who voted for the GOP tax bill, is one of several Republican lawmakers who stands to profit from a special provision benefiting investors in a particular type of oil and gas investment vehicle. IBT previously broke the story of that provision, which was introduced hours before the Senate passed its version of the bill by Cruz’s Texas colleague in the Senate, John Cornyn, whose own former chief of staff was lobbying on the issue.

Cruz has between $115,002 and $300,000 held in the investment vehicles, known as master limited partnerships, according to documents reviewed by IBT in December.

Despite closing the lead in the poll, conventional wisdom holds that O’Rourke still has an uphill battle with Cruz having double the cash on hand, with $5.7 million to O’Rourke’s $2.9 million, according to the latest available filings with the Federal Elections Commission. Filings for the fourth quarter of 2017 will be available within the next two weeks, which may change that picture.