Perry far ahead in UT/Tribune poll
Fri February 12, 2010 11:15 am

The numbers:
Perry 45%
Hutchison 21%
Medina 19%
Undecided 16%

The poll surveyed 366 Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of +/- 5.12%.

The Hutchison campaign will go down in Texas history as accomplishing the least with the most assets, personal and financial. (The closest contender: Claytie Williams in 1990.) They drove her numbers into the ground. Their only defense is that as events transpired, with the tea party movement pushing the GOP to the right, the race may have been unwinnable.

Medina may yet finish ahead of Hutchison, but her refusal to disavow the 9/11 Truther charges moves her from the mainstream to the fringe, making it difficult for her to appeal to independents and undecided voters. No one who thinks that there isn't enough evidence to know whether the U.S. government blew up the World Trade Center should hold a major political office. The episode on the Glenn Beck show indicates the perils that await amateurs in politics. They make mistakes that they don't even know are mistakes.

The poll looks like an accurate picture of the race to me. Hutchison might be as high as the mid-twenties, Medina as low as the mid-teens.

Perry remains strong even though the public doesn't think much of him, as has been true throughout his career. His job approval rating in the October UT poll was 36% approve or strongly approve, 44% disapprove or strongly disapprove. He ought to be unelectable with those numbers. And yet, he extended his lead over Hutchison in the next four months.

He just leads a charmed political life. The headline for my cover story on Perry in the February issue of Texas Monthly (I can't take credit for writing it) was "Right Time, Right Place." That has been the story of Perry's career. Every development in the modern history of the Republican party has been to his advantage. His Democratic opponents self-destruct, as Jim Hightower did in 1990 and John Sharp did in 1998, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Now his Republican opponents are following suit: Hutchison's campaign has been unraveling for a year, and now, just when it seemed that Perry might have to deal with a phenomenon in Medina, she goes loopy.

This is not all luck, of course. Perry has the best campaign team around, and he has assiduously worked the social media to build a list of supporters and stay in touch with them. Hutchison's campaign team may be talented, but they haven't been able to come up with a single message that has moved voters in a positive direction. They switch from one message to the next in the desperate hope that something will work. They violated the first rule of TV campaigns, which is that you have to run positive media before you run negative media. It's too late now.

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