In my post last week about the first Republican gubernatorial debate—in which longshot libertarian Debra Medina surprisingly outshone both Gov. Perry and Sen. Hutchison—I ended by predicting, regretfully, that Perry’s clownish performance probably wouldn’t matter much because Texans don’t go in for debate-watching. By the same account, it seemed unlikely that Medina’s performance would lift her into viability. I am mighty pleased to see evidence that I was wrong. Medina’s post-debate poll numbers have risen sharply and quickly to 12 percent, according to a survey released on Monday by Rasmussen. This was enough to convince The Dallas Morning News and Belo Corp., the sponsors of a second debate on Jan. 29, to belatedly invite Medina to participate. See DMN’s story about this turnabout here. Good on them, and good on the Texas Republicans who not only watched the debate but opened their minds to a candidate most of them had never heard tell of before. For a political novice, Medina was remarkably poised and focused. She also came across as a certifiable human being, something that Perry and Hutchison have long since lost the ability to do. There’s no doubt that Medina’s views are a better reflection of most grassroots conservatives’ in Texas than either of her two opponents’. Her participation in the debates, and the growing possibility that she’ll be taken seriously by Republican primary voters, adds something valuable to the democratic process: A candidate who’s honest and open about what she really believes—and one who is not, so far at least, the puppet of consultants and big-money masters or a creature of towering egomania. Medina’s inclusion in the debate only heightens the irony of what happened on Saturday at the Texas Nullification Rally, where organizers resisted calls to allow Medina to speak, despite giving speaking spots to three Republican legislators running for re-election. Check out my report on the fracas that broke out on the Capitol steps over Medina’s exclusion. Pundits are now all atwitter (literally) about whether Medina will do more damage to Perry or Hutchison. It’s really not that complicated: She stands to take votes from both of them. And rightly so, if you’ll pardon the pun.