Just to make sure that nobody missed the latest Rasmussen poll in the governor’s race (500 likely voters), the Bell campaign sent out their own release with the spin that Bell had knocked 10 points off Perry’s lead since the previous poll. Half of that is Perry’s own slippage. The poll showed Perry at 35%, with all three challengers at 18%. This is dangerous territory for Perry. At 38-40%, the level he has maintained throughout the year, he is unassailable. In the low 30s, he is vulnerable. The best thing he has going for him is the weakness of the opposition. Neither Bell, nor Strayhorn, nor Friedman has shown the ability to break out of the pack.

One has to wonder if poor John Sharp didn’t blow it again. He would have won a Democratic primary in a walk, and, head-to-head against Perry, I think he wins. He peels off a lot of rural conservatives in East and West Texas, and some of the business establishment too, neither of which Bell will be able to do, and he motivates the Democratic base just by being their first credible candidate since Ann Richards. Instead, he joins the Perry camp and writes and lobbies the tax bill that saves the governor’s hide.

This is going to be a short campaign. From Labor Day to the start of early voting in October is around six weeks. Strayhorn’s big advantage over the rest of the pack is money, but she had better move numbers with her first round of TV spots, presumably in early September, or any hope of establishing momentum will evaporate.

At 35% Perry would be fighting for his political life in a two-way race and in trouble in a three-way race. But fortune smiles on him again: It’s a four-way race. The great irony of this race is that Kinky Friedman may end up electing Rick Perry.