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Perry vs. White in Texas governor's race: New poll says it's close

As The Ticket chronicled right here, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry easily turned back a primary challenge this week from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by painting her as a less-than-truly-conservative Washington insider, which in Texas GOP elections can translate into a potentially liberal Lone Star outsider.

The victory margin, which negated the need for a runoff, was 21 percentage points, 51%-30%, with Debra Medina trailing at 17%.

Now Perry's bid for an unprecedented third term confronts Democrat Bill White, who also easily won his party's primary, even in a crowded, seven-candidate field.

But how is Perry gonna tag his opponent as a Washington outsider when White is the three-term mayor of Houston which, despite some suspicions up in Dallas, is still within Texas?

A new poll out Thursday afternoon indicates that's gonna be a tougher challenge for....

...Perry. A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely November voters finds Perry leading White by 6 points, 49%-43%. Back in January, when White recalibrated his political ambitions from a Senate seat to a high-backed chair in Austin, Perry led him by 10 points in a hypothetical matchup.

Among men, Perry's lead is 8 points, twice that among women. At this early moment, Rasmussen finds only 6% of Texans are undecided.

The Texas race will be closely watched as one of this year's 37 races for governor, a job slot that's produced four of the last six presidents--and two of those six were from Texas.

Republicans hope to pick up several governorships (i.e. Oklahoma), as they did last November in New Jersey and Virginia. But they also need to hold the ones they now control. Connecticut looks like a real problem now. What can you say about California? And, for the moment, Texas is close.

Watch for Perry and his occasional campaign pal Sarah Palin to tag White as a tax-raising, over-spending, liberal Obama Democrat, despite his address. One good sign for Perry--he ran unusually well in Houston precincts despite his hard-right primary pitch.

Watch for White to distance himself from the Democratic president and his healthcare legislation, and to talk Texas issues. A likely area for political poking is the widespread national unhappiness with incumbents these days, especially one like Perry who's had nearly 10 years in office (since, as lieutenant governor, he inherited George W. Bush's office) to accumulate enemies and grudges.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Though Governor Perry has done or tried to do some things I support, such as supporting the idea of a Trans-Texas Corridor (apparently dead in the water, at least for now), his cozying up to the Tea Party is a major put-off for me. Yes, the Tea Party folks have some legitimate complaints, but their tactics and strategies are compete turn-offs for me. Also, his "musing" about Texas seceding didn't merely put me off; it angered me. Some of my friends who think that if he doesn't walk on water, he at least hung the Moon argue that his comment was merely an off-the-cuff comment no one should take seriously.

I don't think so. A blurt like that often reveals much about a person's true character, motivation, and thinking. Besides, the last time we seceded -- I'm a Texan -- things didn't exactly work out so well for us, did they now? (Actually, I feel they worked out excellently, as I'm awfully glad to be a citizen of the U.S.)

I just wish Governor Perry would have another "blurt moment," say along the lines of quoting Frank Sinatra from the decades-old film, "Never So Few," in which Sinatra speaks of keeping another character "barefoot, pregnant, and on the edge of town." That might get the ladies of the state -- and their men sympathizers (such as me) -- who currently are enamored of Perry to at least reflect on whether or not he really represents their best interests.

Perry would probably make a fine Texas Ranger, or maybe sheriff. Being a county commissioner would be suitable for him. He might even make a pretty good state representative or senator.

However, Texas is too important a state and looms too large in the national imagination for us to be symbolized by a swaggering good ol' boy. There's a place for such an image -- the ranks of the Texas Rangers, as I already mentioned, would be just perfect -- but the governor's mansion in Austin isn't it.

We need a unifier leading the state, not a divider, especially now, a time when the whole world is tipsy-turvy. Putting Perry back in the governor's chair would be akin to having put General Patton in the President's chair. (I'm a huge fan of Patton -- Patton the *general;* he was a walking, talking -- especially talking, incessantly -- political disaster. Just ask Ike.)

Is Bill White the man to replace him? Well, in political terms, obviously he is, as the Democrats' pick of candidate to run against Perry. Whether he's the man of the moment or not, I don't know, not yet anyway, though I'm looking him over

At least I don't expect Mr. White to swing his coat open only to see a six-iron strapped to his hip -- but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest with Governor Perry. ("Just a varmint gun for those critters crawling out of Washington!" he'd no doubt claim!)

like Hutchinson said best "Its time for Perry to go" we need a unfier,not a divider i agree !WE NEED A UNIFIER NOT A DIVIDER ! BILL WHITE 4 TEXAS:)

Remember....if you say it's close....then it is!!! Texas almost carried Obama but we're not near as upset with Perry as we were at Bush. White might give him a run for his money but in the end it's another term for our jackass frat-boy Governor.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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