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January 31st, 2013:

PPP polls Texas

I have three things to say about this.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Texas voters- even Republicans- have had enough of Rick Perry.

PPP’s newest poll finds that only 31% of voters think Perry should seek reelection next year, compared to 62% who think it’s time for him to step aside. He’s among the most unpopular Governors in the country, with only 41% of voters approving of him to 54% who disapprove.

Perry could face great peril in a primary challenge next year. Only 41% of GOP primary voters want him to be their candidate again, compared to 47% who think it’s time for someone else. And in a head to head match up with Attorney General Greg Abbott, Perry leads by only a 41/38 margin. What makes those numbers particularly worrisome for Perry is that Abbott only has 59% name recognition at this point with primary voters. Among voters who are familiar with Abbott- whether they like him or not- he leads Perry 55/33. That suggests the potential for things to get worse for Perry if Abbott does indeed go forward with a bid.

The Abbott threat to Perry does not represent the typical Tea Party insurgency that has endangered many Republican office holders over the last couple election cycles. GOP voters describing themselves as ‘very conservative’ want Perry to be their candidate again by a 53/33 margin. But moderates (77/15) and voters identifying as just ‘somewhat conservative’ (49/38) are both ready for a change.

If Abbott ends up being the Republican nominee for Governor next year, the party’s 20 year lock on that office in Texas should be pretty safe. We find him up 7-12 points against all the Democrats we tested- 46/39 over 2010 nominee Bill White, 46/36 over San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, 46/34 over State Senator Wendy Davis, and 47/35 over Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Speaking to the difficulty in breaking through in a state the size of Texas, none of the Democrats are terribly well known- White has 58% name recognition, Castro’s is 53%, Davis’ is 34%, and Parker’s is 33%.

Democrats, however, would have a better than normal chance at winning the Governor’s office if Perry did somehow make it through to be the nominee for another term. We find White actually slightly ahead of him at 47/44. And although Perry leads Castro (47/42), Davis (47/41), and Parker (47/40) the margins are all a good deal narrower than they are for Abbott against the same foes.

The full crosstabs are here, and as always that’s where the real action is. My three points:

1. While a majority of respondents say Perry should not run again, 55% of Republicans polled say he should. That’s the number to look at, and it’s the number Rick Perry will pay attention to. Don’t assume he can’t win another primary.

2. Note that Abbott and Perry both get roughly the same level of support in each featured matchup. In the crosstabs, they each get about the same amount of Republican and Democratic support, with each Democrat getting about the same level of Republican support but slightly softer Democratic support – basically, a few points shift from them to “not sure” against Abbott. I would not make much of that. The difference maker is in Independent/Other support. Every Dem gets at least a plurality of it against Perry, with Bill White getting a majority, but that flips when Abbott is the Republican – he gets a plurality against everyone except White, but White loses five points of Republican support against him. My interpretation of this is that the “Independent/Other” category contains a lot of November Republicans. That suggests to me that the best bet to compete against Abbott, whose numbers are hardly overwhelming, is to tie him as tightly as possible to Perry. There’s no real difference between them on the issues, and he’s been in office forever as well, so this shouldn’t be too hard to do.

3. For all the 2014 candidate speculation so far, I hadn’t given any thought to Bill White. That’s mostly because White hasn’t made any sign of being interested in another shot at the office, as well as the emergence of several alternatives. White did win a lot of Republican votes from Perry in 2010 – I firmly believe that in a 2008 context, White could have won – though how much of that was him and how much of it was Perry is unclear. Still, it’s worth it to ask him about 2014, if only to get his denial on the record so as not to take poll results like this with too much hope.

And from their second day release, another interesting result:

Overall on the issue of guns Texans say they trust the NRA over President Obama by a 47/43 margin.

And despite all of that 49% of Texas voters support an assault weapons ban to just 41% opposed to it. Most Democrats support it, independents favor it by a 53/34 margin, and even among Republicans 23% support it. We’ve found support for the assault weapons ban everywhere we’ve polled it, but it’s particularly striking to see that voters favor it in a pro-gun, anti-Obama state like Texas.

Interesting, no? Ted Cruz recently predicted that the push for an assault weapon ban would hand the Senate to the Republicans next year. Perhaps this is just another issue on which he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Anyway. That set of results also showed John Cornyn with roughly the same lead over the aforementioned Democrats as Perry and Abbott have, with no indication that he has much to worry about in a primary. Of course, we know how that can go around here. BOR and Texpatriate have more.

Until there’s something to talk about we’ll talk about the talk

I have two things to say about this.

Still not Greg Abbott

Attorney General Greg Abbott doesn’t want to talk about whether he is running for governor, but he is in overdrive on all the issues that make him a leading contender for the Republican nod, even if Gov. Rick Perry runs for re-election.

Abortion? The stalwart abortion opponent appeared with Perry at Saturday’s Rally for Life at the Capitol, proclaiming, “I believe the evidence shows that Texas is the most pro-life state in the United States of America.”

Guns? Abbott got national attention with an Internet ad inviting New Yorkers tired of pesky gun laws to come on down to Texas.

President Barack Obama? Abbott is quick to tout the numerous lawsuits his agency has filed against the federal government over everything from environmental regulation to health care.

Campaign cash? The latest finance reports created a buzz when they showed Abbott sitting on an $18 million war chest, collected over years, to $6 million for Perry, although their fundraising in the past six months was much closer – $4.1 million by Abbott to nearly $3.6 million raised by Perry.

Just curious here, but does Greg Abbott ever talk about a positive vision for Texas, or is it all about the things he stands resolutely against? To borrow from the Slacktivist, I’m sure Abbott has a very firm stance, but what does he want to achieve for Texas? What problems does he see that need solving, and how would he solve them? And is there anything in there that might be remotely appealing to someone who isn’t a very conservative Republican primary voter? Is there any matter of policy at all where he differs from the base? Rick Perry at least had the Texas DREAM Act to point to as his example of independence, though it wasn’t controversial when he signed it in 2001. What, besides “it’s time for a change” and “he wasn’t conservative enough” will Greg Abbott’s main critique of Rick Perry be? Whatever the answers to those questions, it’s not clear to me we’ll hear much about any of that any time soon. Lord knows a contested primary isn’t going to be a battle of ideas.

“Everything is pure speculation until this summer, but I can envision virtually no scenario where Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott face off against each other,” said lobbyist Ray Sullivan, Perry’s former gubernatorial chief of staff and his former presidential campaign communications director.

Sullivan cited the men’s friendship, similar philosophies and partnership on policy.

Some think Perry will decide not to run; others say that if Perry runs, Abbott will aim instead for lieutenant governor.

“There are a myriad of possibilities,” Sullivan said.

I say there are two possibilities. Either Rick Perry decides it’s time to gracefully retire and hand his throne to someone else – i.e., Greg Abbott – or he decides he isn’t ready to go peacefully into the night and he declares that if anyone wants the keys to the Mansion they will have to take them from him. If it’s the latter, then the question is whether Abbott picks up the gauntlet or not. That’s what it comes down to, and you can interpret remarks like Perry’s statement that Abbott won’t run against him if he runs however you want. Everything else is just details. Scott Braddock has more.

Tell us more about these HCC concerns

The Chron expresses some concerns about recent happenings with the HCC Board of Trustees.

As many longtime Houston residents are well aware, HCC has too frequently been plagued by problems involving the approval of contracts to board members’ supporters and relatives.

Our endorsement of the bond issue was conditioned on the assurance that such problems would not arise as this bond package was being parceled out for needed expansion of facilities. We endorsed the $425 million in large part because we were persuaded that HCC had cleaned up its ethical act.

Under the guidance of then-chairman Richard Schechter, the HCC board two years ago committed to “doing things the right way,” as HCC Board Chairman Bruce Austin wrote in a recent Outlook piece.

We hope so. But based on what we’ve been seeing from the board since the turn of the year, we have some concerns. They include:

1) The decision to return former board member Herlinda Garcia as an interim replacement for outgoing chair Mary Ann Perez, who resigned following her election to the Texas House of Representatives. Out of a presumably large universe of possible replacements, why the choice of Garcia? She returns with baggage from her former service, including well-remembered inflammatory remarks that essentially sabotaged efforts to bring suburban districts into the system. Why her and why now?

2) Why the sudden resignation of Schechter? It was under the Houston attorney’s strong and progressive leadership as board chair that much-needed reforms were initially negotiated and put in place. Why is Schechter leaving so quickly after re-election? Does his leaving signify a shift in power on the board that might lead some members to believe they can move away from commitments to transparency and arm’s length, especially in the area of assigning contracts?

We hope not. But already, we are hearing word of board members with agendas focused on jobs and contracts for favored groups.

These are valid concerns, but I have to say, I’d take them more seriously if the Chron took HCC more seriously to begin with. For instance, the first place that I heard about Herlinda Garcia’s appointment to replace Rep. Mary Ann Perez was this HCC press release, which I came across while researching my first look at the 2013 elections post. I had started to write that I had no idea how the HCC Board of Trustees went about filling an unexpected vacancy, and decided to Google around rather than publicly admit my ignorance, and in doing so I found that story. The Chron had no news of this until nearly a week later when they wrote about Schechter’s resignation, mentioning the Garcia appointment in passing. As for Garcia’s baggage, that’s the first I’ve heard of it. Neither a Google search nor a Chronicle archive search yielded anything relevant; this 2003 story about the election Garcia ultimately lost to Diane Olmos Guzman didn’t mention anything specific. Those “inflammatory remarks” may be well-remembered, but they’re sure not well known or well publicized. How about a profile of the new trustee so you can inform the rest of us about this baggage, Chron editorial board?

As for Schechter’s resignation, once again it would be nice if the Chron did more to investigate their concerns rather than merely editorialize about them. I will also note that the HCC Board is soliciting applications from qualified members of the public to be considered for an appointment to fill Schechter’s position. But don’t get your hopes up about this – the application deadline was Monday, and the Board intends to pick the lucky winner at today’s Board meeting. We’ll see how long it takes the Chron to write about that.

Texas blog roundup for the week of January 28

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready for a ruling in the school finance lawsuit as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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