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Poll: McConaughey could beat Abbott, O'Rourke in head-to-head battles for governor

Matthew McConaughey could still be eyeing a bid for governor, and a recent poll indicates he's still got a shot. (PAN Photo Agency/Shutterstock)

Time's ticking for Austinite and Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey to announce his bid for Texas governor, but if he wanted it, he could still have a shot, according to a November poll by the University of Texas and Dallas Morning News.

If the race became a three-way showdown between Abbott, McConaughey and Beto O'Rourke, who announced his bid on Nov. 15, incumbent Abbott would stay in office with a 10-point lead, according to the poll's 1,106 voters.

But the poll indicates McConaughey, who has considered a campaign for months, would beat current Gov. Greg Abbott by eight percentage points in a head-to-head matchup. And Austin's Minister of Culture would fare even better alone against O'Rourke, with nearly 50% of respondents choosing McConaughey over the former Texas representative. O'Rourke received 27% of the vote, while 19% said they would vote for someone else.

McConaughey has teased a bid for governor since he said the move was "a true consideration" in March. In a spring poll by UT and the Dallas Morning News, voters said they'd choose McConaughey over Abbott by a 43%-35% margin—the same percentage points released this November.

But McConaughey seemed to have faltered on his rumored plans by October, with sources telling The Hollywood Reporter that the actor still "hasn't been fundraising or gathering a potential staff, aside from a few exploratory phone calls."

In an October interview on the New York Times' Sway podcast, McConaughey called politics a "bag of rats."

"One side I'm arguing is 'McConaughey exactly, that's why you need to go get in there. The other side is, 'that's a bag of rats man,'" McConaughey said. "Don't touch that with a 10-foot pole... you have another category to have influence... help how you think you can help and even heal divides.'"

One factor that could boost or hinder McConaughey is his assertion to be "aggressively centrist"—so much so that many aren't sure if he would run with a party or as an independent.

"People want a third party and we've got one and it doesn't have a name right now and it is the majority," McConaughey said. "I'm hesitant to throw labels... but there is a sleeping giant right now."

If McConaughey chose the Democratic ticket, the UT/DMN poll appears to point towards McConaughey, who would appear to beat both Abbott and O'Rourke in one-on-one showdowns.

But if the "poet-statesman" McConaughey chose independent, the poll points to another term with Abbott in office.

Forty percent of those polled said they wanted McConaughey to announce a run, but the notion grows slimmer with each passing day—the deadline for all candidates to file their bids is Dec. 13.

If the race is just Abbott vs. O'Rourke, O'Rourke would lose by six percentage points, according to the poll, which found that just 18% of voters have a "very favorable" view of the former representative. Just 23% of those polled "strongly approve" of how Abbott has handled his role as governor, with 29% strongly disapproving of his.time in office.


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