Polling released by PPP today confirms what many have felt for months in the Republican gubernatorial primary: Medina's got the Big Mo'.
It's been evident on the ground since the summer. At countless “Tea Party” events and counter-protests to health reform, conservative activists have made themselves visible with signs such as the one at right. At first, Medina might have been easily dismissed as a bigger secessionist than Rick Perry. However, her willingness to court these enthusiastic voters and acknowledge their growing frustration with the Republican status quo is now paying dividends in terms of both polling and fundraising.
Truth be told, the Medina supporters are on to something, and their sign speaks more truth than lunacy. Hutchison voted to confirm Justices Alito and Roberts, whose votes on the Citizen United case recently did indeed further open the floodgates to corporate money influencing our public policy. Perry, of course, has a long history of close ties to corporate lobbyists, as Hutchison's latest attack ads make clear. He has also been endorsed by just about every special interest group seeking protectionist policies in the state house.
Medina, on the other hand, may be only the Republican Party Chair of Wharton County, but at least she knows her principles and she sticks to them. She even took the Republican Party of Texas to court because she found the state convention insufficiently open to activists such as herself and her supporters. And while Democrats are quick to dismiss her as “just another crazy,” she's speaking to a growing electoral base who are frustrated with what they see in DC and in Austin.
Now, as a wider swathe of Republican primary voters have started paying attention, polling reflects the growing momentum behind Medina's candidacy. Similarly, flagging numbers for the Senior Senator illustrate the continued troubles of Hutchison to pick up any energy.
Perry's numbers have largely held steady over the course of the campaign. However, it's Medina who has gone from zero to Tea Party Hero, drawing support steadily away from Hutchison and undecideds a like. Many Hutchison voters are simply anti-Perry, and Medina now provides an equally compelling choice for folks dissatisfied with the status quo. And for the Republican activist base who are unhappy with both Austin and Washington, Medina is a clear alternative, a fresh voice for their far-right ideals.
And every added ounce of media attention only helps Medina. After having to fight her way in to the first Republican debate, Medina showed down Hutchison and gained serious ground in the 1/17 post-debate poll. She also raised $200,000 in the week after her first debate appearance, a huge boost to her campaign.
Meanwhile, Perry has finally started taking a few hits, with Hutchison's solid negative ads on the incumbent. Both “New One” and “Perry Attack Lab” dish it right back out at Perry, pointing out his own hypocrisy on the bail-out and stimulus funds, while also questioning his social conservative bona-fides. However, it may be too late for her to regain any traction in this race, especially with the surging Medina.
To keep the mojo rising, Medina's supporters are even planning a Money Bomb on February 15, the day before Early Voting, to help push their candidate into the run-off. The date commemorates the adoption of the Texas State Constitution in 1876. They're bringing the angry rhetoric to bear, castigating Perry and Hutchison for a failure to adhere to real conservative principles. From their website:
Unfortunately today, we no longer have elected leaders who believe in such principles – at least not in the Governor's seat! Instead, our leaders believe it perfectly normal to steal land, restrict gun rights, ignore the existence of a southern border, force untested medical treatments on our daughters, and allow the Federal Government to walk all over our contract with them known as the U.S. Constitution.
Practically sounds like they're talking about what they think of Democrats. Just goes to show how out-of-touch many establishment Republican candidates are with the activist base that is fueling their resurgence.
With early voting one week away the PPP poll would suggest only 9% remain undecided, and with the close margins, it looks as though the race may well go to a run-off. The real question now is if Medina's organized, vigorous supporters can overcome Hutchison's institutional support and make it into the final round with Rick Perry.
It's ironic. At the outset of this campaign, a lot of the talking heads and punditocracy wanted to see Perry vs. Hutchison as a battle over the future of the Republican Party between a Washington “moderate” and a self-styled pseudo-secessionist. Instead, Hutchison never really put up much of a fight, and Medina was there to capitalize from the far-right.
Now, Texas voters may be treated to a Perry-Medina run-off. And that, dear readers, could indeed be the epic show-down amongst the Republican Party faithful that we've been waiting for.