Monday, March 4, 2013

Rick Perry's Possible 2014 Gubernatorial Bid is D.O.A. per PPP, but University of Texas Says Otherwise

Photo courtesy of Corbis

Texans, according to the Democrats favorite polling firm, can't seem to get rid of 3-term Governor Rick Perry, who has refused to rule out a historical fourth bid for the Governor's mansion in 2014. Though there seems to be some disagreement about whether Texans actually want to give him the boot. Public Policy Polling released a brutal survey for Perry last month that showed both the Texas elctorate as a whole, and the Republican primary electorate, wanting Perry to hang it up.

From the PPP release:

Perry could face great peril in a primary challenge next year. Only 41% of GOP primary voters want him to be their candidate again, compared to 47% who think it's time for someone else. And in a head to head match up with Attorney General Greg Abbott, Perry leads by only a 41/38 margin.

“Most Texas voters are ready to move on from Rick Perry,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “They think it’s time for a new Governor."
To hear PPP explain it, Rick Perry, who remains undecided on seeking a fourth term as Governor, should definitely consider retiring. The general Texas electorate and the primary electorate all agree on this fact. And miraculously, Perry, who easily trounced his BIG-NAME opponent Kay Bailey Hutchison four years earlier in the GOP primary, only leads the largely unknown Republican Atty General in a hypothetical primary battle by 3 points, 41-38%. With numbers like that, it would require a certain degree of irrational stubbornness to proceed with what appears to be a losing battle, right?

Fortunately for Team Perry, there are two important data points that dispute the notion that the Governor is D.O.A. for a 2014 bid. 1) A new University of Texas internet poll directly contradicts PPP's January finding, showing Rick Perry quite strong in a GOP primary, at least at this early stage of the race. And 2) PPP has a history of finding a very weak Rick Perry at early stages of past contests, only to see him turn it around in the closing months.

Regarding the UT Poll: Rick Perry leads Attorney General Greg Abbott by a near 3-to-1 margin:

In a 2014 Republican primary for Governor held today, who would get your vote? (Taken Feb. 14 - 24, 2013, among Republican voters)
Rick Perry (R) -  49%
Greg Abbott (R) -  17%
No Opinion -  31%

That's a world of difference from PPP's finding of a statistical tie. And Rick Perry's 49% showing is just barely short of the 50% required by Texas law to avoid a run-off. In 2009, Perry consistently polled in the 30s and lower 40s at this point of the primary campaign (see chart below). If it does come down to Perry v. Abbot next March, Perry is starting in a much better position than he did against Hutchison in 2009.

Beyond the UT poll, however, is the fact that despite Perry's poor showing in the January PPP poll, he can take comfort knowing weak, early PPP findings haven't stopped him before. Outside of an internal poll done on behalf of the Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) campaign, PPP was the ONLY pollster of the 2009-2010 TX Gubernatorial polling cycle to show Hutchison with a lead against Perry as large as 25 points. During that same period of time, other pollsters found Hutchison AND Perry with only narrow leads over the other. The chart below documents all 25 polls released on the 2010 TX primary, taken after the 2008 election:

The Perry camp must be feeling a little deja vu, especially considering the doomsday scenario PPP found for him at this time in 2009. In fact, regarding the GOP primary, things looked even worse THEN than they do now. He trailed Hutchison by 25 points at this stage in 2009, while he has a small 3 point lead over possible challenger Greg Abbot today (or a 19pt lead if you buy the UT poll).

Even more stunning than PPP's initial finding of a 25 point deficit for Perry against Hutchison in 2009 was the final result of the primary on March 2nd, 2010. Perry stomped her, 51-30%, with 19% going to 3rd party candidate Debra Medina, a near complete reversal of the margin by which PPP found him trailing Hutchison just 1 year earlier (it's worth nothing that PPP's final GOP primary poll missed the final result by a large amount as well).

At least in regards to the GOP primary, Rick Perry should feel pretty comfortable about where he is at today. Two polls of the race show him leading his likely GOP contender by anywhere from 3 to 32 points (a much stronger position than where PPP, University of Texas, and Rasmussen found him at this stage of the primary battle in 2009).

With respect to the 2014 general gubernatorial election, PPP finds Perry similarly positioned to where they found him at this stage in 2009. Then, Perry had a weak 41/48% favorable/unfavorable rating, compared to a 41/54% job rating today. Then, Perry led an unknown Democratic contender by 10 points (PPP didn't test Perry against his actual eventual 2010 Democratic opponent, Bill White). Today, Perry trails White by 3, but leads all of the other Democrats he's tested against, including rising Democratic Star Julian Castro by a 47-42% margin.

Dean Debnam, Public Policy Polling President, may be premature in assuming that Texas voters are done with Rick Perry. The UT poll, and his own firm's past with underestimating the 13-year Governor, suggest otherwise.

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