The two top hopefuls for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Texas remain out in front of their likeliest Democratic opponent, but now the tea party activist who is the third GOP contender is edging ahead as well.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Texas voters finds incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry leading former Houston Mayor Bill White 48 percent to 39 percent. Five percent (5 percent) like some other candidate, and eight percent are undecided.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison still runs best against the Democrat, leading White by 13 points, 49 percent to 36 percent. Seven percent (7 percent) prefer another candidate, while another seven percent (7 percent) are not sure.
The findings for both these match-ups are little changed from mid-January.
The surprise, as in the new Rasmussen Reports survey of the GOP gubernatorial primary, is the growing strength of Debra Medina, a businesswoman active in the state’s tea party movement.
Medina now edges White 41 percent to 38 percent. Last month, White had a 44 percent to 38 percent lead on her. In this contest, six percent (6 percent) favor some other candidate, but a more sizable 16 percent are undecided.
Voters not affiliated with either major party prefer the Republicans in all three match-ups by double-digits.
All three possible Republican candidates post broadly similar results among both Democrats and unaffiliated voters. However, Medina currently attracts only 62 percent of the GOP vote, well below the totals for Perry and Hutchison. With Medina as the nominee, 23 percent of GOP voters say they would either prefer a third option or are undecided.
All three Republican contenders carry male voters over White by double-digit margins. Women favor Hutchison over the Democrat but break even when Perry is the Republican in the race. White wins female voters by six points against Medina.
Perry's lead over Hutchison has grown a little bigger in the GOP primary contest. Medina has seen her support grow from four percent (4 percent) in November to 12 percent in January to 16 percent now. She was invited to participate in a televised debate with Perry and Hutchison last Friday night based on the growing voter support shown in the previous Rasmussen Reports survey.
Texas is a challenging state for Democrats and the overall political climate adds more difficulties for White early in this election season.
John McCain carried Texas over Obama 55 percent to 44 percent in November 2008, and now just 41 percent of Texas voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president. Fifty-eight percent (58 percent) disapprove of the president’s performance. These figures include 27 percent who strongly approve versus 48 percent who strongly disapprove. This is a higher level of unhappiness than is found nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
Forty-eight percent (48 percent) of Texas voters say reducing federal spending is more important than reducing the deficit. Thirty-seven percent (37 percent) disagree and say reducing the deficit is more important.
Sixty-three percent (63 percent) of voters in Texas say the government should cut government spending. Six percent (6 percent) favor an increase in spending, while 21 percent think a freeze on spending is the best way to go.
Sixty-six percent (66 percent) say cutting taxes is the best way to create new jobs. Just 12 percent think more government spending is a better job-creator, and 14 percent say neither will work.
But 62 percent like the three-year freeze on discretionary government spending proposed by the president. However, only 12 percent think it will result in a big reduction in the federal deficit. Eighty percent (80 percent) say it will have little or no impact on the deficit.
Despite the November shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas voters are more optimistic about the war on terror than voters nationally. Forty-six percent (46 percent) in Texas say the United States and its allies are winning the war on terror, while only 22 percent say the terrorists are ahead.
Forty-one percent (41 percent) believe America is safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but 40 percent disagree.
Twenty percent (20 percent) of Texas voters have a very favorable opinion of White, while 15 percent view him very unfavorably.
Just 33 percent of Texas voters think it’s at least somewhat likely that Congress will be able to agree on a smaller, bipartisan health care plan this year. Sixty-two percent (62 percent) say it’s not very or not at all likely.
Perry is viewed very favorably by 14 percent and very unfavorably by 21 percent. For Hutchison, very favorables total 17 percent and very unfavorables 13 percent. Fourteen percent (14 percent) have a very favorable opinion of Medina, but 12 percent see her very unfavorably.
At this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with a strong opinion more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.
Texas voters are almost evenly divided at this point over Perry’s performance as governor. Fifty percent (50 percent) approve of how he’s doing, down three points from a month ago and 13 points from November. The new number includes 11 percent who strongly approve. Forty-eight percent (48 percent) disapprove of his job performance, including 24 percent who strongly disapprove.
Rasmussen Reports has released recent polls on the 2010 governor's races in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Rasmussen Reports also has surveyed Senate races in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Most portray a troubling electoral picture for Democrats in this November's midterm elections.
Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now jumped to a 12-point lead over Governor Charlie Crist in Florida's Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate.
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