Those results, which come from live-call surveys that follow best-practices methodology most top-quality pollsters use, stand starkly at odds with the only available public poll
, which was conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, which showed Dewhurst's support much lower and Cruz's support marginally higher.
That public survey used an opt-in survey panel -- that is, it drew from a pool of respondents who had signed up to take surveys online. It is not a methodology that is widely used by political professionals, nor recognized by many media outlets, including National Journal
(See UT/TT's methodology here
, in pdf form).
The bottom line: In polls that follow common methodology standards, Cruz is virtually unknown among Texas conservatives. Among those most interested in the political process -- those who would opt in to an online political poll -- he's better known, but not that much.
Cruz backers argue that the 2010 cycle showed the ability of a largely unknown challenger to surge ahead and defeat a frontrunner who at one time held a huge lead in the polls. Look no farther than Rubio's own race against then-Gov. Charlie Crist
But running statewide in Texas poses a daunting challenge for an unknown candidate hoping to boost his name identification. The state's unusually early primary date, March 6, doesn't give Cruz much time to get his message out.
The most effective way for a candidate to increase his visibility is through television advertisements, and Texas's markets make that a pricey proposition.
Running a statewide television advertisement at a sufficient level of saturation to actually register with voters in Texas can coast a campaign between $1 million and $2 million per week. For Cruz to boost his name ID significantly, his campaign likely would have to run ads for several weeks before the election -- meaning the overall price tag will pile up quickly (A single gross ratings point in Dallas, for example, costs $694. A point in Houston costs $680. That's not cheap).
In his FEC report for the fundraising quarter that ended in September, Cruz reported having just under $2.5 million cash on hand. That's a great start, especially for a political neophyte. But it buys at most two weeks of advertising, hardly enough to vault Cruz into the ranks of the well-known.
Leppert faces a similar problem. He is known in Dallas and the surrounding Fort Worth area, but not in the rest of the state. Leppert's campaign has already started airing ads in recent weeks. Leppert has spent a little more than $450,000 on the air in most major Texas markets in recent weeks, though he's so far skipped Houston, according to a Republican tracking ad spending for a rival campaign.
Dewhurst hasn't run his own advertisements yet, but he's got more than $4 million in the bank, much of it from his own checkbook. Dewhurst's individual wealth will help him supplement that money; Leppert, too, has given generously to his own cause. Cruz does not have the same personal fortune to keep pace with the single stroke of a pen.
The Cruz campaign has said that while it doesn't expect to raise as much money as Dewhurst, it will have the funds to compete through television ads when the time comes.
The equalizer for Cruz could come in the form of a potential runoff with Dewhurst. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the March primary, the top two finishers will face off in a May 22 runoff. If Cruz were to beat Leppert and secure a spot in the runoff opposite Dewhurst, that extra time and exposure could help him narrow the gap in name recognition.
Cruz, in short, has a long way to go. The race to replace Hutchison is, in fact, a two-person race -- and at the moment, it's a race against Leppert, for second place and a spot in the runoff.