Rick Perry, the longest serving Governor of Texas, looks to be the top voter-getter in the Republican primary election for Governor on Tuesday, but he may not win the nomination. Under Texas law, to become the Republican nominee, the primary winner must tally at least 50 percent of the vote. If this does not occur, the top two finishers will advance to an April 13 runoff.
What started out last year as a two-way race between Rick Perry, the popular incumbent Governor, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the equally popular U.S. Senator from Texas, turned into a three-way contest with the rise of conservative activist Debra Medina.
Two recent polls suggest that Perry has a commanding lead over Hutchison and Medina heading into Tuesday. A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted last week indicates that Perry leads Hutchison 48 percent to 27 percent with Medina garnering 16 percent among 500 likely Texas Republican primary voters. This survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. Similarly, a Public Policy Polling survey of 400 likely Texas GOP primary voters, conducted between February 19 and February 21, asserts that Perry leads Hutchison 40 percent to 31 percent with Medina getting 20 percent. This survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
According to the Houston Chronicle, when Hutchison entered the contest, she had “a 25 percentage-point lead” over Perry. So what has accounted for Perry’s dramatic turnaround among Texas GOP voters? Wayne Slater and Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News posit that Perry has successfully portrayed Hutchison as a Washington insider and that Perry’s anti-Washington, states’ rights rhetoric strongly resonates with Texas Republicans.
Yet, Debra Medina’s steady showing in the polls (and the potential that she attracts voters not captured in the polling of “likely Republican voters”) could derail Governor Perry’s bid to serve another four years.
Perry’s campaign is hoping to capture a majority of GOP primary votes on Tuesday, while the Hutchison camp is banking on a runoff. Hutchison’s “campaign finance reports show she is ratcheting back on television spots in hopes of having money for a runoff,” while Perry has purchased additional TV time for the stretch run, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Luckily for Hutchison, who has received endorsements from former President George H.W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, Medina shows no signs of “‘letting up’” on Perry.
Whether the eventual Republican nominee is Perry or Hutchison, it is likely that either will face Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White in November.