The Big Conversation:
As Rick Perry said Tuesday, he's not going away. But new poll numbers spell possible trouble for him if he sticks around.
Though 39 percent of Texas voters would support Perry if he ran for re-election in 2014, more than half — 51 percent — said they wouldn't, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
"It's not that Perry is dead," said Daron Shaw, the co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "But the notion that he's invulnerable is dead."
And you don't have to look far to find out why. Asked how Perry's failed presidential bid had affected Texas' national stature, 55 percent said it had hurt the state's image, while only 6 percent said it had helped.
The governor's overall favorability ratings stand about where they did in October: 38 percent approve; 45 percent disapprove. Only 13 percent approve strongly, though, while 30 percent disapprove strongly.
"He's both as popular and as unpopular as he's ever been," said Jim Henson, co-directs the poll with Shaw.
On Tuesday, in his first extended sit-down interview with a Texas news outlet since dropping out of the race in January, Perry told the Tribune that he was leaning toward another gubernatorial run in 2014 — and possibly another presidential run in 2016.
“If I had to make a decision today, I’d say, yeah, absolutely, I’m going to give it consideration," he said of running again for governor. "But again, it’s way early.”
The UT/TT poll also surveyed Texans' attitudes toward the Tea Party. Asked how they would vote if the Tea Party formed its own party, 37 percent said they would vote for Democrats, 22 percent for the Tea Party and 16 percent for Republicans.
- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a major affirmative action case involving race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. Though the court in 2003 allowed public universities to account for race in admissions decisions to some degree, both sides of the debate this time expect the court — which will likely hear the case just before the presidential election in November — to eliminate such admissions policies in higher education. UT President Bill Powers said the university "will vigorously seek a decision affirming the Fifth Circuit’s decision and reaffirming the educational benefits of diversity and our narrowly tailored holistic admissions policy."
- House Speaker Joe Straus endorsed Mitt Romney on Tuesday, saying in a press release that Romney is the "best choice to defeat President Obama and bring our Texas spirit of low taxes, limited government, balanced budgets and fiscal conservatism to Washington." The endorsement comes as a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows Rick Santorum trouncing Romney in Texas by double digits.
- Democratic state lawmakers on Tuesday called for a special session to address education funding in light of recent positive state economic news, as the Austin American-Statesman reports. In the first meeting of the House Appropriations Committee since last year's legislative session, Democrats, including Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston, said the state's Rainy Day Fund and $1 billion in unanticipated state revenue should be used to offset sweeping public education cuts. But the committee's chairman, Republican Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, warning of future economic woes, said GOP lawmakers had no desire "to go back in and undo what we did in the session."
“Obviously it embarrasses you. When the bright lights are on and trying to reach in there and get that exact thing that you’re looking for is elusive, so it’s happened to everyone, and I kind of take it as one of those great humbling moments in your life that helps us all become better people. From my perspective, I’d rather it not have happened. If you don’t hit a few speed bumps in your life, you’re probably going down a dead end road." — Rick Perry to the Tribune on Tuesday
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