WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. House Armed Services Committee Democrat challenging Senate Armed Services Committee Republican Ted Cruz for his Texas Senate seat was dealt a setback by a Quinnipiac Poll published Wednesday.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke was within striking distance of Cruz, trailing Cruz by three points in an April 18 Quinnipiac Poll — leading to speculation a Democrat might win statewide office for the first time since 1994. But Cruz, at least for now, has pulled ahead to a more comfortable 11-point lead in the latest poll.

“Sen. Ted Cruz, apparently benefitting from a nationwide Republican mini-move, has taken a solid lead in his reelection race,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll.

“President Donald Trump’s Texas numbers also have climbed during those six weeks moving from a nine point deficit on job approval to an even split today. It is hard not to see a pro-Cruz effect there.”

Trump won Texas in the 2016 presidential election with 53 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent. In the recent poll, Texas voters gave Trump a divided 47-47 percent approval rating, compared to a negative 43-52 percent approval on April 18.

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., selected O’Rourke in February to become his vice ranking member.

Trump’s focus on border security has played into the race, as O’Rourke has vocally opposed the deployment of National Guard troops along the border, telling CNN last month the border has never been safer.

Troops aren’t trained to patrol the border and should focus on their military training and readiness, O’Rourke said, adding: “Trying to scare this country about Mexico and Mexicans and our connection with the rest of the world is not a strategy.”

Last year, O’Rourke supported a ban on Defense Department dollars for a wall, but the provision was later stripped from the 2018 defense policy bill by the House Rules Committee.

Cruz on Wednesday touted the SASC’s inclusion of his amendment to the panel’s draft defense policy bill requiring the Pentagon to quickly develop and deploy space-based missile interceptors — “critical to defending against [North] Korea and Iran,” he said on Twitter.

The Cruz campaign has dinged O’Rourke on national security by characterizing him as supportive of the “Obama Iran deal” and for opposing funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield.

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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