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

March 4, 2010 |  3:42 pm

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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