Monday, October 23, 2006

"If undecided voters break strongly for either Bell or Strayhorn, then Perry could be beat."

Polls still not clear on governor's race, thanks to undecided vote


Harvey Kronberg
Quorum Report
Copyright 2006

OK, here's how things stand based on traditional polling. Gov. Rick Perry has dropped to the low 30s. Democrat Chris Bell and Independent Carole Strayhorn hover at about 20 percent and the Kinkster has plummeted to single digits.

Since the one with the most votes wins without a runoff, today it looks like Perry will serve another term. Maybe. But the most important number in these polls are the undecided.

Undecided numbers usually drop late in the campaign, but this year is different. They have actually increased to around 20 percent. If the undecided break strongly for either Bell or Strayhorn, then Perry could be beat.

One Democratic operative said African-Americans frequently tell pollsters they're undecided, but then vote the straight Democratic ticket when they get into the voting booth.

But then, African-Americans constituted a significant percentage of Strayhorn's ballot petition signatures.

The Perry campaign still has one of the best political organizations I've ever seen. In the past, they have known how to get traditional Republican voters to the polls.

Undecided vote

It looks like Gov. Rick Perry will win the election, but that's not counting the undecided voters.

But despite claims to the contrary, national despair with Republican governance may have penetrated Texas. President Bush's approval, even here, hovers around a historical low of 50 percent.

There is some talk around in GOP circles that moderates who usually vote straight ticket Republican may have swung back into the independent column. The whispered concern among these Republican professionals is that they could lose their first down ballot statewide race in a decade.

If so, Republican financial advantage may not be enough to stave off Democratic gains in the Texas House. No, unlike Congress, Democrats have no chance of taking over the Texas House. But they do have a shot of reducing GOP numbers by as many as four seats. That leaves only 82 Republicans in the 150-member House and at least inches open the door to an effort to replace Speaker Tom Craddick with a less partisan and bruising Republican leader.

For a decade, Republicans have excelled with their get out the vote machine and may well do so again.

But as one well-placed Republican told me last week, "We know we can get them to the polls. But this is the first time we're not 100 percent certain they are going to stick with us."

© 2006 Quorum Report: