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The Brief: Sept. 8, 2010

No, really. Tied? The governor's race?

Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

No, really. Tied? The governor's race?

That's what Ben Philpott of the Tribune and KUT News is asking after a poll conducted for Texas Watch released Tuesday showed Gov. Rick Perry leading challenger Bill White 42 percent to 41 percent, a tie within the margin of error.

A June survey from Public Policy Polling that similarly pegged the race as tied was largely brushed off as an outlier, given that polls throughout the summer consistently showed Perry's lead hovering around 10 points.

But another poll released Tuesday, commissioned by Democratic philanthropist Bernard Rapoport, also showed a statistical tie, with Perry leading White 44.4 percent to 40.6 percent within the margin of error, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Texas Watch, an insurance watchdog group, bears a history of unfriendliness toward Perry, but the group commissioned Hill Research Consultants, a Republican firm, to conduct the poll, hoping to dispel any perceived bias. Philpott notes that an explanation for the tie could be found in the poll's number of undecided respondents, 14 percent — high compared to recent surveys. The Chronicle notes that the poll also surveyed registered voters, not likely voters.  

Also, both polls were conducted in the days immediately following release of the ad that ran in Texas newspapers calling Perry a "coward" for refusing to debate White. "The Coward ad did have some impact," Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson told the Chronicle, noting that the numbers could simply be reflecting a short-term gain for White. "Perry has yet to throw his heavy blows."

Both candidates said they're staying focused on Election Day, not polls. But one thing's for sure: There may be something to that line about things picking up post-Labor Day.

CULLED:

  • Another Republican is eying a run for Texas speaker. State Rep. Warren Chisum told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he'd decide on whether or not to challenge incumbent Joe Straus before November.
  • Irked by a lack of clear information on the state's budget woes, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, sent a letter to Comptroller Susan Combs last week asking for updated revenue estimates. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry called Watson's request "bizarre," saying, "I don't think there's any great need to have our comptroller going through a process right now to satisfy some people's political desires."
  • Food stamp applications are languishing no more, the state's Health and Human Services Commission is expected to announce at a Capitol hearing today. But the state may need more resources to keep up with demand, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
  • Democratic candidate for attorney general Barbara Ann Radnofsky is hitting incumbent Greg Abbott for what she calls his flip-flop on immigration enforcement. Though the attorney general has supported Arizona in its battle with the federal government, Radnofsky issued a statement Tuesday calling out Abbott for saying in 2004 that "developing and enforcing immigration laws is the exclusive domain of the federal government." Texas Monthly's Paul Burka said Radnofsky "land[ed] a solid punch" in a race whose outcome is largely a "foregone conclusion."

"I have been one of the best people at the AFL-CIO to pick up a phone and talk anybody into giving me a check for a cause. Trying to sell myself to someone has been the hardest thing."Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, on the demands of fundraising

MUST-READ:

Tomball votes down housing ban on illegal immigrants, Houston Chronicle

Not Ground Zero, but Katy mosque also stirs passions, Houston Chronicle

Chavez-Thompson, Dewhurst vie for No. 2, San Antonio Express-News

Flores calls on Edwards to pull 'defamatory' layoff ad, Waco Tribune-Herald

In Marfa, Artists Cheer Stall in Solar Project, The Texas Tribune

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