Just days before Texas Republicans pick their nominee for governor, incumbent Rick Perry has his biggest lead yet.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican Primary voters finds Perry leading Senate Kay Bailey Hutchison 48 percent to 27 percent, with Tea Party activist Debra Medina earning 16 percent of the vote. Nine percent (9 percent) of Texas GOP voters remain undecided.
At the beginning of the month, Perry lead 44 percent to Hutchison’s 29 percent and Medina’s 16 percent. In September, just after Hutchison traveled statewide to announce her candidacy for governor, she posted a 40 percent to 38 percent lead over Perry, but that was the high point of her support which has been declining ever since.
Early voting has already begun in the primary which wraps up on Tuesday. Turnout is often difficult to project for primaries, but among those who say they have already voted, Perry has earned 49 percent support, while Hutchison and Medina have picked up 24 percent and 20 percent respectively.
If the winning candidate fails to get 50 percent of the vote a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held on April 13.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill White still trails Perry and Hutchison in general election match-ups, but he’s drawn a little bit closer than he was a month ago.
Perry appears to have successfully portrayed Hutchison as a Washington insider at a time when voter unhappiness with politics in the nation’s capital is hurting incumbents nationwide. Medina seemed to be drawing support from Hutchison in the previous survey but stumbled this month in part because of a high-profile spat with Fox broadcaster Glenn Beck over her remarks suggesting there was an undisclosed conspiracy behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Perry, who is seeking an unprecedented third term as governor, carries the male voter by more than two-to-one over Hutchison and wins a plurality (45 percent) of the female vote as well.
The incumbent earns 56 percent of the conservative vote to Hutchison’s 22 percent and Medina’s 16 percent.
Conservatives dominate Republican primaries in Texas and nationally. But Perry also breaks even with Hutchison among GOP moderates.
Sixty-six percent (66 percent) of Texas Republican voters approve of the job Perry is doing as governor, down eight points from the beginning of the month. But the new finding includes 23 percent who strongly approve, up five from the previous survey. Thirty-two percent (32 percent) disapprove of the job Perry is doing, including 15 percent who strongly disapprove.
The two front-runners remain popular with Texas Republicans, although their favorables are down from the previous survey. Perry is viewed favorably by 67 percent, including 24 percent with a very favorable opinion of him. Thirty-one percent (31 percent) hold an unfavorable view, with 12 percent very unfavorable.
For Hutchison, favorables total 56 percent and unfavorables 42 percent. These figures include 13 percent with a very favorable opinion and 12 percent with a very unfavorable one.
Just 35 percent now have a favorable view of Medina, the owner of a medical consulting firm. This includes nine percent (9 percent) with a very favorable regard for her. Forty-seven percent (47 percent) view her unfavorably, with 18 percent very unfavorable.
All three candidates have experienced double-digit drops in their favorables as the primary approaches. Just two percent (2 percent) express no opinion of Perry and Hutchison, while 18 percent still don’t know enough about Medina to venture even a soft favorable or unfavorable view of her.
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