The Brief: Texas Political News for Nov. 4, 2013

Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott at their respective announcements for governor of Texas.
Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott at their respective announcements for governor of Texas.

The Big Conversation

The big headline from the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll out today is this: The gap between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis can be counted on a single hand.

Abbott leads in the still relatively early survey of 1,200 registered voters by a 40-35 margin over Davis. Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass was included in the horse-race question and was favored by 5 percent. In a head-to-head matchup between the presumptive GOP and Democratic nominees for governor, the distance between Abbott and Davis swells from 5 points to 6 — 40-34.

The pollsters who conducted the internet survey — Daron Shaw and Jim Henson of the University of Texas at Austin — caution, though, against reading too much into the numbers. Shaw attributes the strong showing for Davis to the fact that "for the first time in a long time, the Democrat is as well-known as the Republican at the outset of the race.”

Henson adds: “These numbers are not evidence that the underlying fundamentals are changing in Texas. We have not seen a big change in party identification, and we don’t see any large-scale shifts in the underlying attitudes that are forming.”

And in the much buzzed-about contest for the GOP nomination for lite guv, the UT/TT Poll has the incumbent David Dewhurst with a significant lead on the rest of the four-man field. He was preferred by 26 percent of respondents, with state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in second place with 13 percent. Trailing further behind were Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, preferred by 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

“Dewhurst has had a good month or so, and the others have not been able to get a lot of traction,” Shaw said. “A four-way race is a complicated thing. A candidate has to say, ‘Do I want to go after Dewhurst, which benefits the other two and hurts me because I went negative?’ Nobody really wants to do the dirty work of going after him, because they’ll get the damage of going negative.”

Expect more stories on this latest UT/TT Poll throughout the remainder of the week.

Culled

•    As Bush Settles Into Dallas, Golf Tees and Family Time Now Trump Politics (The New York Times): "Nearly five years after leaving office, the nation’s 43rd president lives a life of self-imposed exile in Texas, more interested in painting than politics, recovering from a heart scare, privately worried about the rise of the Tea Party, golfing with fervor, bicycling with wounded veterans and enjoying a modest revival in public opinion. While Bill Clinton criticizes Republicans on the campaign trail and Dick Cheney chastises the current administration on his book tour, Mr. Bush resolutely stays out of the public debate."

•    Texas tea party seeks Ted Cruz 2.0: David Barton (Politico): "Texas tea party activists eager to send another firebrand in the mold of Ted Cruz to the Senate have launched a movement to draft evangelical historian David Barton to run against Sen. John Cornyn."

•    Republican Rivalry Simmers as Paths and Styles Diverge (The New York Times): "The divergent strategies undertaken by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul not only put them on a collision course should they both pursue presidential candidacies. They also could help determine whether the Tea Party — right now a muscular and rebellious force within the Republican Party — remains at war with the establishment or is eventually more smoothly integrated into the party apparatus."

•    Abbott unveils government restraint plan, but could he make it happen? (Houston Chronicle): "Attorney General Greg Abbott is talking up his first set of policy proposals, which should cause great rejoicing among those who think the race for governor should be about ideas. But Abbott's ideas, focused initially on government growth, are tough to imagine being enacted because so many of them would require amending the state constitution in a way that would limit lawmakers' authority."

•    Little fanfare for state’s $7 billion clean-energy project (Austin American-Statesman): "At almost $7 billion, one of the state’s largest infrastructure projects is about to be completed with little or no fanfare. ... The project — perhaps the state’s largest clean-energy investment — is getting little public notice from state authorities because of past controversies that helped add $2 billion to the cost, or that the final verdict on the overall benefit is still out because the 18,450 megawatt system comes on-line at half capacity."

Quote to Note: “O.K., I want to talk about painting.” — Former President George W. Bush, setting the discussion topic during the exit interview of his public policy institute's executive director.

 Must-Read

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