TX Battle: Perry/Hutchison Race Tight

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 08, 2009 8:49 AM
Things never seem to be what they appear and recently-released polls in the Texas Governor’s race are proving that old adage true.

RasmussenReports.com has released its first poll showing incumbent Rick Perry leading potential challenger Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison by a margin of 42 percent to 38 percent of likely Republican primary voters -- while internal Perry polls show Senator Hutchison with a lead of 45-39.

The interesting fact, though, is that these numbers paint a dramatically different picture than the numbers first revealed by the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling (hailed by the KBH Campaign) back in February.  As you might recall, that poll showed KBH leading by 25 points, 56-31.

As you might recall, I questioned the merits of that poll -- based on the fact that PPP's client list includes groups like the AARP, NARAL, UAW -- and the North Carolina Democratic Party.  It is probably safe to assume Rasmussen Reports has a better handle on the pulse of the Texas voters than does a democratic polling outfit out of North Carolina.  So it's probably safe to assume Perry has a slight lead in this race.

But the bigger picture here is two fold, first...this race could cause irreversible harm to a truly Red state in a time when the GOP can ill-afford it -- and second -- it is totally an avoidable situation if Senator Hutchison were to simply decide to stay put in the U.S. Senate.

But if Hutchison stays in the race, she ought to be concerned with Perry's internal numbers, which clearly demonstrate that Texans blame Washington -- and not Austin -- for the problems the state is facing today. In fact, 83 percent of those surveyed who believe Texas is on the wrong track balme politicians in Washington.  Clearly, Perry will make this an issue in the primary.

Hutchison also faces another problem: the need for cross-over voters to jump to the GOP primary in order to vote for her. According to Rasmussen, “Perry leads by 15 percentage points among conservative voters but Hutchison leads by 35 points among the moderates.” This one line says it all for KBH. For her to win, she will need moderate voters to join her.  Appealing to these moderate voters will require taking stands likely to alienate reliable conservative primary voters.  It would require an amazing act of balance to pull off a maneuver such as this.

Only time will tell whether or not personal ambition is Senator Hutchinson's primary driving force -- and what damage a bitter primary battle might do to Texas Republicans in the General Election campaign.