And here's the story of that Texas Poll that I alluded to yesterday.
Controversial budget cuts and the bitter congressional redistricting battle apparently have turned Rick Perry into the most unpopular Texas governor in 14 years, according to a poll released Friday.
Half the 1,000 Texans surveyed in the latest Scripps Howard Texas Poll said they disapprove of the job Perry is doing as governor. Just 40 percent gave Perry positive marks.
That marks the greatest level of dissatisfaction with a Texas governor since Republican Gov. Bill Clements' last year in office in 1990, when 59 percent of the Texans surveyed said he was doing a poor job.
Texans turned on Clements in 1987 because he was involved in a football pay-to-play scandal at Southern Methodist University and broke a no-new-taxes campaign promise by signing into law the largest tax increase in Texas history.I
In Perry's case, the slide seems to have been caused mostly by bitterness over three special sessions on congressional redistricting last year.
"The biggest event probably was the negative publicity surrounding redistricting, which was an ugly political fight," said Perry pollster Michael Baselice, who questioned the poll's accuracy.
The Scripps Howard Texas Poll was conducted Feb. 12-March 3 in a random sample of 1,000 adult Texans. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Baselice said it is unlikely that rumors about marital infidelity, which Perry has denied, played any role in the drop in the governor's numbers. Baselice predicted that Perry's image will improve in the public eye once he holds a special session on public school finance reform.
[T]he poll indicates that Perry could face serious problems when he runs for re-election in 2006.
Former Gov. Ann Richards' worst job approval rating -- 51 percent -- came just weeks before her bid for re-election was crushed by Republican George W. Bush.
Bush's worst job approval rating occurred as he took office in 1995. Only 37 percent of Texans said Bush was doing a good job and 22 percent disapproved, but 41 percent said they knew too little about Bush to make a judgment.
Perry's job approval has been in a steady decline since just before he ran for re-election in 2002. He entered that race with 67 percent of Texans approving of his job performance, and he came out of the bitter contest with half approving.
His job approval declined to 44 percent last summer. It rebounded slightly to 46 percent in the fall, with 44 percent disapproving. The latest poll indicates a six percentage point drop in his positives with a like rise in his negatives.
The governor's job approval rating among self-described independents -- the swing voters in state elections -- has dropped 42 percent since last November to 33 percent. And among Republicans, support for his tenure is down from 74 percent last fall to 66 percent.
"That's not good for any politician," said SMU political scientist Cal Jillson. "Any politician going below 50 percent (job approval) needs to be looking over his shoulder."
In Perry's case, he could face possible Republican primary challenges from either U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. U.S. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, who is losing his seat due to redistricting, also has indicated he may run for governor.
Strayhorn said the poll results showed a general displeasure with Perry's administration.
"Texans know this governor has abdicated his responsibilities and created local crises in education and health care by signing laws that balance the budget on the backs of school teachers and our most vulnerable Texans," Strayhorn said.
She said Perry passed state costs on to local governments and cut the budget in a way that caused 107,000 children to be "thrown off the health insurance rolls in the last five months. That's unconscionable."
University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said Perry also is suffering partly from the continued downturn in the economy, the export of high technology jobs overseas and a decline in popularity for Bush. He said that all combines to make life for difficult for politicians in the party in power.
"Numbers this bad usually means an incumbent governor loses, but he has time to recover," Murray said.