The headline on today’s Chron piece – “Beating Perry uphill battle” – elicits a certain “Tell me something I didn’t already know” feeling. It’s a decent enough overview for those who haven’t been paying much attention, but for the rest of us, well, it doesn’t really tell us much that we didn’t already know. One point I want to make:
But the three-way challenge also is working in Perry’s favor because Friedman, Strayhorn and Bell may split the anti-Perry vote. And Perry has consistently led his opponents in public opinion polls.
I don’t doubt that the three-way challenge will split the anti-Perry vote to some extent. It seems like an oversight to me to write this, however, without acknowledging that Perry’s level of support is pretty damn soft for a Republican in this state – thirty-six percent in last month’s DMN poll – and that this is the result of Strayhorn (who would have likely gotten around 30% in a GOP primary against Perry, based on the limited polling we had prior to her jump) and Friedman peeling voters away from him. Even the GOP-friendly Rasmussen poll, which had Perry at a high of 46% pre-Strayhorn, has him at 40% as of February. Perry just isn’t that popular, as SurveyUSA has tracked month by month. Note those deep troughs in July and August, during the most recent Special Session Palooza. Look for a similar dip in April and May, even if a school finance bill is ultimately passed.
(If you want to know what a popular governor’s numbers looks like, compare Perry’s tracking chart to that of Janet Napolitano. Note also that Napolitano is a Democrat in a red state. Just FYI.)
All in all, it’s easy to see why the Chris Bell campaign believes it has a straightforward path to winning. If the likes of Bob Scarborough and JR Molina can do better than 40% in a year where George Bush topped the ticket, it’s not hard to imagine Bell doing the same in 2006, when that may well be sufficient. The key is holding onto the base, which is going to involve convincing enough people that the math can work. The analysis by Perry pollster Mike Baselice may be self-serving, but he’s right about the Dems not having much slack. Strayhorn is certainly going to push the idea that only she can beat Perry, and if enough Dems believe that, it’ll be come self-fulfilling. Friedman’s cult of personality campaign presents a different issue, one with no easy answer.
We’ll know more after the special session. If the Lege beats the June deadline and passes a school finance bill that meets constitutional muster, a huge amount of heat will be taken off Rick Perry. If that happens, I expect to see him start to poll over 50% again, and from there it’s likely to be all over. If August rolls around and nobody knows when or if the schools will be open, he’s in deep trouble. I have no idea what will happen. None at all.
Finally, on a tangential note, I have to give credit to Kinky Friedman for demonstrating once again that he can get his name in the papers while doing pretty much anything, no matter how trivial. That’s a superpower that almost any political candidate would love to have. Link via Michael Croft.