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El Paso native Beto O'Rourke reacts to mass shooting

Democratic presidential candidate chokes back tears as he addresses the media; Claudia Cowan reports from Las Vegas.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is running third behind Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in two new polls in his native Texas, which in the 2020 primaries will be a crucial Super Tuesday state.

Biden, the former vice president who’s been the front-runner in the Democratic nomination race in nearly all surveys since even before launching his White House bid in April, stands at 28 percent among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning. Warren is in second at 18 percent.

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O’Rourke, who was born in El Paso and represented the western Texas city in Congress for six years, is tied with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for third place, at 12 percent.

A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll also released Wednesday morning likewise indicated O’Rourke in third, trailing Biden and Warren.

Both polls were released on the eve of Thursday’s third-round Democratic primary debate, which will be held in Houston.

The Quinnipiac survey was their first in Texas since early June. In that poll, O’Rourke was in second place at 16 percent, behind front-runner Biden at 30 percent. Sanders was a point behind O’Rourke at 15 percent and Warren registered at 11 percent.

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O’Rourke narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year in a high-profile Senate race. While he came up short, O’Rourke broke fundraising records, grabbed national attention and became an up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party. He instantly shot up in the polls and in fundraising when he declared his candidacy for president in March.

But his star started to fade in the ensuing months, as he was overshadowed by another rising star in the party–South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. O’Rourke now registers in the low to mid-single digits in most national and early voting state polling.

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The new Quinnipiac survey shows Sen. Kamala Harris of California at 5 percent, Buttigieg and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at 3 percent and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 2 percent. Everyone else in the record-setting field of Democratic presidential candidates came in at 1 percent or less.

Castro is also a Texas native, serving as San Antonio mayor before joining then-President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

The Quinnipiac poll indicates that Warren has the most popular policy ideas, but when it comes to beating President Trump in next year’s election, half of those polled picked Biden.

"In Texas, the stereotype holds that Sen. Warren is the candidate of Democrats' hearts – they say two- to-one she has the best ideas – while Biden is the candidate of Democrats' heads, with a five-to-one lead over Warren when it comes to who has the best chance to win against Trump," said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Peter Brown.

The release of the polls come as O’Rourke’s campaign noted their candidate would be spending the weekend in Texas where they touted “he will highlight his unmatched strength in the state.”

At least 14 states are expected to vote on next year’s Super Tuesday, which will be held on March 3. But the two biggest prizes that day will be California and Texas, where the state’s 228 delegates will be awarded proportionally.

Looking ahead to the 2020 general election, the Quinnipiac poll indicates the president slightly underwater, with a 45-50 percent approval rating among all registered voters in Texas. Forty-eight percent of those questioned say they would definitely not vote for Trump in 2020, with 35 percent saying they’ll definitely vote for the president.

No Democratic presidential nominee has carried Texas in a general election since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Sept. 4-9, with 1,410 registered voters in Texas questioned by live telephone operators. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The overall sample included 456 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The sampling error for Democratic primary questions is 5.5 percentage points.

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