Could President Obama beat Rick Perry in Texas in a general-election showdown?
According to a new poll by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, Obama would beat Perry 47 percent to 45 percent. That’s within the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error. But in that same poll, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul beat Obama by 8 and 5 points respectively, while Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty would also win the state (albeit within the margin of error) in the general election.
Dave Carney, a top political adviser to Perry, dismisses the PPP poll, telling National Review Online in an e-mail, “PPP has a long track record in Texas of being wrong.” He pointed to a June 2010 PPP poll that had Perry tied with Democratic gubernatorial Bill White at the same time a Rasmussen Reports poll had Perry 8 points ahead. Perry went on to win in November by a 13-point margin.
“That poll’s wrong,” agreed Ted Delisi, a strategist who has worked as a consultant for Perry during previous gubernatorial campaigns. “I don’t think President Obama has a chance of carrying Texas, regardless of who the Republican nominee is going to be.”
Carney said the poll would have “zero impact” on whether Perry opted to run in 2012.
Yet, pair that with a May University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showing that only 4 percent of the state’s Republicans would vote for Perry in the GOP primary, and there are bound to be questions about Perry’s in-state popularity — and if Texas Republicans aren’t crazy about him, will Republicans nationwide be interested in nominating him?
Right now, it’s certainly not the case that GOP voters nationwide are skeptical about a Perry candidacy. A Fox News poll released yesterday showed him in second place, commanding 13 percent support among primary voters.
Larry Sabato, director of University of Virgina’s Center for Politics, thinks that the PPP poll “reflects Perry’s controversial nature.” “He is not the most popular figure there. He’s got a lot of enemies. He went as low as 39 percent in his 2006 reelection,” Sabato observes.
Still, Sabato says he “laughed” at the PPP poll’s results. He remarks, “I don’t care how much money they spend. President Obama isn’t carrying Texas.”
Joshua Trevino, vice president of communications at the free-market, non-partisan Texas Public Policy Foundation, points out that Perry is no stranger to defying the odds in competitive races. “With Governor Perry in particular, you are looking at a guy who has fought and won many elections starting from a pretty unfavorable position — most famously, the last gubernatorial election,” he says.
In that election, popular, moderate Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison mounted a primary challenge against Perry. According to a February 2009 PPP poll, she had the support of 56 percent of likely GOP voters to Perry’s 31 percent. But on Election Day a year later, Perry won 51 percent to Hutchison’s 30 percent — even with tea partier Debra Medina siphoning off 19 percent of the conservative vote. Once again, Perry had proved it wasn’t accidental — or even just lucky — that he’s never lost an election.
In March, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told donors in Texas that Obama might make a “serious play” to win the Lone Star State, according to Politico. If that’s still the Obama campaign’s endgame, they must be hoping it’s not Perry who wins the Republican nomination.
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO staff reporter.