December 10, 2003
Yeah, but who'd they pick for Miss Congeniality?

The latest Scripps Howard Texas Poll is out, and it shows some interesting numbers for the top Republican politicians in the state.

Out of a sample of Texans identifying themselves as Republican primary voters, 45 percent said they would vote for [Senator Kay Bailey] Hutchison for governor if the Republican primary were held now.

Forty-one percent said they would vote for [Governor Rick] Perry, 1 percent said they would prefer another candidate, and 13 percent were undecided. The sample of 393 people had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Sixty-eight percent of the same group, however, said they would vote for Perry if [Comptroller Carole Keeton] Strayhorn were the challenger. Some 17 percent backed Strayhorn, while the remainder were either undecided or preferred another candidate.

[Lt. Gov. David] Dewhurst led Strayhorn, 44 percent to 28 percent, in a hypothetical race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, which also won't be on the ballot until 2006.

The telephone survey was conducted Nov. 14 through Dec. 6 by the Scripps Howard Research Center.

OK, so from this we learn that KBH is Really Really Popular, Perry is Sorta Popular, and Strayhorn is Not As Popular As She Thinks She Is. The jury is still out on Dewhurst, who I'd bet would have been stomped like a grape at a vineyard in a head-to-head with Hutchison. I think this lends some small amount of credence to the notion that Strayhorn might switch parties in order to run for Governor. A 68-17 margin is not something you can reasonably hope to overcome in a primary, but a Democrat who can split off 20-25% of the GOP vote in a general ought to be a winner. Of course, her deficit against Dewhurst is manageable, so she could choose to challenge him in the primary instead. Or hey, just maybe she'll stay put as Comptroller. Stranger things have happened.

As for the possible KBH/Perry smackdown, SMU prof Cal Jillson tosses off a sound bite in the DMN.

"I see her as the strongest Republican in Texas right now," said Mr. Jillson. "Perry divides people. He's been essentially flat over the last year, whereas Kay has been trending up. That suggests Kay has real strength should she decide to make that move."


According to the survey, Texans give Mr. Perry mixed marks on the job he is doing as governor 46 percent saying he's doing an excellent or good job and 44 percent saying he's only fair or poor.

By contrast, Ms. Hutchison's job approval is 62 percent. A quarter of voters give her low marks.


"I take Rick Perry to be a placeholder," said Mr. Jillson. "He moved up when Bush went to Washington. He has never really established himself in the minds of Texas voters or even Republicans in a warm and positive way.

"He's there, he's doing fine, he's fighting the fight," he said. "But there are others like Hutchison who have a more positive feel among Republicans and more crossover."

Previous surveys have shown equally mediocre approval numbers for Perry as well, so I think Jillson's statement is accurate. Whatever else you can say about Perry, people don't like him the way they liked George W. Bush.

And speaking of our former Governor, the DMN has some numbers on him, too.

The survey also found that President Bush, who has always enjoyed high approval ratings in Texas, has seen his numbers slip to 58 percent. Forty-one percent disapprove of Mr. Bush's job as president.

The latest numbers mark a seven-point drop in Mr. Bush's approval among Texans since August and a 13-point drop since June, according to the survey.

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'd be willing to bet that that 41% disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded for Bush here. I'd also be willing to bet that the partisan breakdown of his numbers is now much more in line with the rest of the country. Texas' electoral votes are comfortably in Bush's pocket, but there might be some room for Congressional candidates to run against him. It'd be nice to see the Democratic candidate do some campaigning here as a turnout-booster, if nothing else.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

You suggest that Strayhorn might switch parties to run for governor. While that may be her only possibility, she has already done that once. See, e.g.,
having formerly been a liberal Democrat. If she were to try it again she would be handing her opponent a tailor-made opportunity to paint her as nothing more than an opportunist, and I don't think she could easily survive that.

Posted by: David on December 11, 2003 9:09 AM

Let me try that link again:

Posted by: David on December 11, 2003 9:11 AM

True, but as Greg puts it, Strayhorn can spin it as coming back to a party that's come back to her. It would certainly take some good handling on her part, but it's doable, and again, based on those poll numbers, I think it's her only realistic option if she wants to be Governor and has to run against another Republican.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 11, 2003 9:16 AM