Handicapping the GOP's Texas Governor Primary

Perry's up, Medina's down, Hutchison's struggling

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The Texas GOP gubernatorial primary is one of the first dramas in the hotly anticipated 2010 bloodbath. With current Governor Rick Perry facing the 2010 anti-incumbent fervor, challenger Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison facing anti-Senate irritation, and both having to deal with Tea Party candidate Debra Medina, the race heated up early. Now Perry is pulling ahead, while Medina falls back amid suspicions she's a 9/11 "truther." Here's what else observers are excited about:

  • Last-Minute Perry Pull-Ahead From Hutchison  "Part of the reason Hutchison lags behind," speculates Politics Daily's Bruce Drake, "is that 37 percent want to see the three-term lawmaker remain in the Senate, compared to 24 percent who prefer her as governor. Thirty-one percent think she should be out of office." The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has other ideas: Perry did a very good job painting the senator as part of the Washington problem in an anti-Washington year, and Hutchison played her hand poorly.
  • Yet Still a Danger of a Runoff  In Texas, the primary winner has to get at least 50 percent of the vote or face a runoff election with the second-place contender. A new poll showing Perry at 50 percent is "not exactly the good news Perry wants to hear," notes CQ's Bob Benenson. It is, on the other hand, precisely the news Democrats want to hear, as the Austin American-Statesman's Ken Herman points out, suggesting Democrats support the Tea Party's Medina, stealing votes from Perry and forcing the Republican candidates to waste money on the runoff election.
  • Hindsight's 20/20--Should Have Talked about Secession  "It's worth wondering," muses MSNBC's Domenico Montanaro, "whether the race might have been different had Hutchison immediately resigned her Senate race--without equivocation--and attacked Perry's secessionist talk from last year. What if she had said back then, 'You can be president of the Republic of Texas; I want to be governor of Texas.' It would have shown some toughness that her candidacy seemed to lack."
  • Medina (and Texas) Flat-Out Crazy In The San Diego Union-Tribune, Ruben Navarrette says Medina's wacky theories may have hurt her, but "anywhere else," he says, the revelation that she believed the U.S. government to have "knock[ed] down two skyscrapers and killed about 3,000 people" would have finished her. The conclusion: "If you think a little thing like entertaining the preposterous theory that the U.S. government toppled the Twin Towers would end someone's candidacy for governor, then you don't know Texas politics." Texans have a contrarian bent, prone to support people the "media elites" hate.
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