Gov. Rick Perry has taken a commanding lead in the run-up to the March Republican primary, receiving support from 45 percent of likely voters, compared to 21 percent for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and 19 percent for GOP activist Debra Medina, according to a statewide poll conducted by The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Tribune.
The difference between Hutchison's and Medina's support is within the poll's 5.12 percentage point margin of error for the Republican sample, suggesting the two are in a statistical dead heat. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in the March 2 primary, the top two vote getters will face each other in an April runoff.
"Debra Medina has clearly become a wild card in the Republican gubernatorial primary race. She caught everyone's attention in the debates and is riding a bit of a wave," says Government Professor Daron Shaw, one of the poll's organizers. "The analytical question is 'who does she hurt more?' On the one hand, she has been reasonably effective in critiquing Perry's stewardship and conservative credentials. On the other hand, she cuts into Hutchison's claim as the most plausible vehicle for change."
On the Democratic side, former Houston Mayor Bill White receives 50 percent support, compared to 11 percent for Houston businessman Farouk Shami, with the remaining voters undecided or supporting someone else. The margin of error for the Democratic primary is 6.02 percent.
"This poll crystallized the enthusiasm Democratic stalwarts have been showing for Bill White since his initial foray into statewide politics as a possible U.S. Senate candidate. Farouk Shami has added to the interest in the race, but his effort to catch White faces significant obstacles," says Jim Henson, director of the university's Texas Politics Project, which oversaw the polling along with the Tribune. "In general, the large number of uncommitted respondents confirms that the Democratic race has gotten off to a much slower start than the Republican race, even though there are more contested statewide slots."
The survey of 800 registered voters was conducted Feb. 1-7 after the second Republican gubernatorial debate featuring Perry, Hutchison and Medina. The lone debate between White and Shami was held after the survey was conducted. The overall survey results has a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.
The poll shows Perry continues to gain momentum. He had support from 38 percent of likely voters last June and 42 percent in October. Meanwhile, Hutchison's support rose from 26 percent in June to 30 percent in October before dropping in this month's survey.
Medina, who has tried to win support from Tea Party activists, was not included in the university's June poll and had 7 percent support in October.
Looking ahead to possible November matchups, the survey finds both Perry and Hutchison with nine-point leads over White, while Medina and White are tied at 36 percent. Independent voters say they would back Hutchison or Medina against White--but narrowly favor White against Perry.
The poll's other findings include:
- Former Comptroller John Sharp leads a crowded field of candidates in a potential race to replace Hutchison in the Senate. Sharp, the only Democrat running, has 29 percent support. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is second at 15 percent.
- On a generic two-party congressional ballot, 43 percent of respondents would support a Republican compared to 36 percent who would back a Democrat.
- If a Tea Party candidate is added to the generic ballot, he or she would receive 16 percent support, compared to 36 percent for the Democrat and 21 percent for the Republican. Independent voters say they would back the Tea Party candidates in larger numbers (37 percent) than either the Democrat (11) or Republican (2).
This is the second in a series of online polls conducted jointly by the Texas Politics Project and the Texas Tribune, a non-profit, nonpartisan public media organization based in Austin.
For poll results and methodology, please go to the Texas Politics Project Web site.