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Lyceum poll: Abbott over Davis, 29-21

Make of this what you will.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Republican Greg Abbott is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup for Texas governor, but it’s a statistical dead heat among women, according to a Texas Lyceum Poll of registered voters released Wednesday.

Abbott, the attorney general, leads Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, 29 percent to 21 percent in the poll, with a whopping 50 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.47 percentage points.

Abbott’s lead shrinks to 2 points, within the margin of error, when only women are counted. In that slice of the electorate, Abbott had 25 percent and Davis was at 23 percent, with 51 percent undecided.

Davis, who is expected to announce her campaign for governor on Thursday, leads Abbott 36 percent to 10 percent among black voters and 22 percent to 18 percent among Hispanic voters in the poll. Abbott has a lopsided lead over Davis among independents — 18 percent to 8 percent — but in that group, 74 percent are undecided.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he found the gender gap “intriguing.” Given the fact that white Texans make up two-thirds of the electorate and routinely give 70 percent or more of their votes to Republicans, Davis needs to peel off white suburban women from Abbott if she has any hope of winning.

Here’s the homepage for Lyceum polling, and for their 2013 poll. The press release for this poll is here, the executive summary is here, the poll results are here, and the crosstabs are here. I think this poll is mostly a recapitulation of name recognition, though I find it interesting that there were still this many non-answers given that both Abbott and Davis’ party memberships were mentioned. It should be noted that there was a significant gender gap in the 2012 poll results as well – see page 43 of the crosstabs for the Presidential numbers, in which Romney led Obama 63-33 among men but only 50-43 among women. Everyone knows that winning over women will be a key part of Davis’ strategy, so this will be worth watching as we go forward.

More from Trail Blazers:

There is something in the survey to hearten both candidates, pollster Daron Shaw said.

Davis should be bolstered by the fact that Abbott – despite 12 years as attorney general and five on the Texas Supreme Court – is not established with voters, Shaw said.

She still has the opportunity to tie him closely to his former protégé Ted Cruz, paint him as extremist, or define Abbott as she likes, he said.

Abbott could look at the numbers and see that if the 50 percent of undecided voters break like the rest, then the results would be 58 percent for him and 42 percent for Davis, Shaw said.

Those numbers are similar to the 2010 governor’s election when Gov. Rick Perry beat Democratic contender and former Houston mayor Bill White by 55 to 42 percent.

“If I’m Abbott, I’d be up 16 percent over the woman who’s supposed to be the celebrity of the Democratic Party. So whatever star power came to her, it hasn’t seemed to move the dial,” he said.

I don’t know that you can make that assumption about how the vote would be split among the non-answer folks. That’s pretty much going to be the crux of the whole campaign. Of interest will be whether Abbott starts spending some of his gazillions of dollars now to try to define Davis before she can amass a campaign war chest. If I thought Abbott had any idea how to talk to non-Republican primary voters, I might be a bit concerned about that. Given the track record so far, staying quiet for now is probably the wiser course.

Finally, Ann Richards’ former campaign manager has some words of wisdom for Team Davis. Seems like a lot of the things that were true in 1990 can or will be true next year, too.

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