With Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison continuing to founder, we appear to be witnessing one of the most spectacular political implosions in Texas history. It’s hard to fathom now, but last February, one widely circulated poll showed Hutchison leading Gov. Rick Perry 56 percent to 31 percent among likely Republican voters.
That’s damn near 2-to-1. Yesterday, Rasmussen’s latest numbers showed that the senator’s support had been cut nearly in half from that high point a year ago. After her second anemic debate performance, she’s down to 29 percent, with Perry holding steady at 44 percent and Debra Medina registering 16 percent — a 12-point climb from December, thanks mostly to the libertarian’s sharp turns in the two televised debates.
And get a load of this, people: Perry leads Hutchison by five points among likely Republican women voters. What was inconceivable three weeks ago is now in the realm of possibility: Not only could Medina, a lightly funded candidate running her first race against two money-drenched warhorses, force a runoff by denying Perry 50 percent on March 2—she could be the second-place finisher.
If Medina captures just half of the undecided folks in this poll—11 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds—and continues to gather momentum while Hutchison fades, the gap could be closed in a month. Funnier things have happened, especially in volatile political times like this.
Just since Rasmussen’s latest poll, on Jan. 18, Hutchison has slid by four points while Medina picked up four. Another five-point change both ways would bring them even. A growing number of Republicans are clearly beginning to view Medina, not Hutchison, as the best alternative to the perma-governor.
As Rasmussen notes, “Medina is much more competitive when those with strong opinions are considered.” Twenty-four percent of Republicans said they had a “very favorable” opinion of Perry, 18 percent of Hutchison and 16 percent of Medina. One thing’s easy enough to predict: Medina’s voters will turn out with all the force they can muster. They have something to vote for—something pretty darn radical, it’s true, but there’s no denying that Medina is crystal-clear on where she stands and what kind of change she’d try to make as governor.
Hutchison, meanwhile, has given her natural base—more moderate Republicans—no reason to get their butts off the couch and vote. She continues to play on Perry’s (and now Medina’s) political field, trying to pick off conservative voters by talking up a gimmicky “Property Bill of Rights,” assailing the dead Trans-Texas Corridor, and claiming that she—personally—quadrupled the number of Border Patrol agents. (Apparently senators are more powerful than we knew!)
Funny: When Hutchison said she couldn’t resign her Senate seat because it was her duty to stay in Washington and defeat health-care reform and cap-and-trade, she was staking a claim to be a serious powerhouse on Capitol Hill. It was going to be Hutchison vs. Obama, the senator implied. If she came back to run full-time for governor, we’d soon be sliding down that slippery slope to socialism. She had to save America!
Hutchison was, of course, laughably overstating her influence in the Senate. But how much power is she going to wield after she’s embarrassed herself with a sub-30-percent showing against Rick Perry, who’s never been especially popular, and this unknown character named Debra Medina?
Somehow, I don’t think President Obama will be quaking in his wingtips when Sen. Hutchison limps back to Washington.