The latest is from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, which shows Perry ahead of White by 48% to 42%. PPP's previous Texas governor's race survey, in June, showed Perry and White tied at 43% each. A recent Zogby poll commissioned by longtime Texas Democratic godfather Bernard Rapoport has Perry in the lead, 44.4% to 40.6%. Hill Research Consultants calls it 42%-41% for Perry. The outliers are the Wilson poll for GOPAC Texas that showed Perry in the lead by 50% to 38% and the August Rasmussen poll that had Perry ahead by 49%-41%. If you average Perry's lead in the five polls taken since June, he leads White by 46.6% to 40.4%. Sounds plausible to me.
PPP believes that White can improve his standing in the polls by making an argument out of term limits:
Bill White has a potential voter pool among Republicans who disapprove of Rick Perry. But he also has room to improve by hammering one message more than any other: that Perry, in his third term already the longest-serving Texas governor in history, has been in the governor’s mansion too long. If White is the right candidate in the wrong year, that message is the right one for this cycle.
49% of likely Texas voters beliedve the governor, not legally term-limited, should be held to two terms, and a further 17% believe he should get only one term, meaning two-thirds of Texans think Rick Perry’s time has already expired.
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I do think that an anti-incumbency message has a lot of potential in an election in which voters are in a surly mood. But Hutchison tried this argument in the primary and it didn't sell. Of course, she was hardly the right person to deliver the message, having violated her own term limits pledge.
Furthermore, as someone who is on the ground here in Texas, I don't see a lot of anti-incumbency feeling toward Perry among Republicans. Perry has superb political instincts. He embraced the Tea Party movement early on and insulated himself againt an anti-incumbency mood. PPP's numbers show that there is a resistance to a third term for Perry, but whether Republicans are willing to express their feelings by voting for a Democrat is something I can't swallow. White will have to win this race with anti-Perry Republicans and independents, but most surveys (though not this one: PPP has White winning independents by 53%-34%) show that Perry is getting the lion's share of the independent vote.
One other interesting observation from the PPP poll:
Our Texas poll today is a reminder: the enthusiasm gap is not the same everywhere. We are not seeing any drop off in Democratic turnout there from 2008 probably because it's their party who has a candidate they're excited about in Bill White while it's the Republicans having to hold their nose and vote for an incumbent they're tired of in Rick Perry.
Yes, there are some Republicans who are going to be holding their noses when they vote for Perry. The anti-Perry Republican vote is probably around 30% -- in other words, the Hutchison vote. I don't think that the intensity of the anti-Perry vote is enough to create a wave, unlike the intensity of the anti-Obama vote.
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