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The Brief: Sept. 13, 2010

Not a fan of the political horse race? Just for today, hear us out.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Not a fan of the political horse race? Just for today, hear us out.

In the latest Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll, Gov. Rick Perry leads challenger Bill White by 6 percentage points, 39 percent to 33 percent, seven weeks away from Election Day. Libertarian Kathie Glass sits at 5 percent, while 22 percent say they're undecided.

White has closed in on Perry since the last Tribune/UT poll, which was conducted in May and showed Perry leading White 44 to 35. Today's numbers fall in line with a series of recently released surveys that have shown Perry still ahead of White but falling from the 8- or 9-point perch he consistently sat at in polling over the summer.

"White has not yet faded and remains in striking distance of Perry," Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas who oversees the UT/Tribune poll with his colleague Jim Henson, tells the Trib's Ross Ramsey. "The downside for White is that Perry is up by 18 points among those who say they are extremely likely to vote. White needs a big turnout among young voters and minorities to be competitive."

But mirroring the national environment, voter unrest is still dominating the political narrative and, in this case, appears to be moving Texans — though in which direction is not always clear. Along with nearly one in five respondents undecided about the governor's race, about a third of Texans consider themselves members of the Tea Party. Another 30 percent, however, aren't partial to either the Tea Party or any other major party. Third-party candidates also appear to be securing enough of the vote to potentially alter the dynamics in a number of races.

Republicans still hold a strong generic lead over Democrats, though, with almost half saying they would chose an R (48 percent) over a D (33 percent) in a congressional election held today. Republicans also still lead in every statewide race. The closest race, for agriculture commissioner, has incumbent Todd Staples in front of challenger Hank Gilbert by 7 points.

Check out the Ramsey's report for full analysis, and get the raw results here.

CULLED:

  • Thought the governor's race was getting vicious? That, it turns out, may have nothing on the race for agriculture commissioner between Democrat Hank Gilbert and incumbent Republican Todd Staples, who lobbed grenades at each other while seated in front of the Dallas Morning News editorial board on Friday. Some choice lines: "How can he handle the money of taxpayers if he can't pay his own?" "There are things in his personal history I could bring up, too, that would embarrass his family." "My opponent is a liar."
  • Gov. Rick Perry went on air Saturday with his first ad of the general election.
  • Houston lawyer Steve Mostyn, the prolific Democratic donor who was recently interviewed by the Trib, is objecting to a Republican legislator's attempts to secure information about a number Mostyn's cases. The Trib's Elise Hu's reported on the mini-saga on Friday.
  • The House Business and Industry Committee, which oversees workers' compensation in Texas, will begin hearings this morning to investigate controversy surrounding the agency's subpar record of sanctioning dishonest doctors. The whistle-blowing former employees who came forward in a May Texas Tribune investigation are scheduled to testify, but not before division Commissioner Rod Bordelon, who has said he's worked hard to make the necessary fixes in routing out bad doctors.
  • Gov. Rick Perry's stumping in Dallas, Denton and Irving today, with Bill White down south in Harlingen and McAllen. The Brief will keep you updated on the candidates' whereabouts if you do us the honor of helping out the GovTracker by sending us pictures, videos and links to news stories from the candidates' events across the state. Deal?

"You've got me and Leo [Berman]. There may be some more crazies." — State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who's eying a run for speaker of the Texas House, joking that others may enter the race if one materializes

MUST-READ:

‘Evangelical epicenters’ may help sway gov vote, Houston Chronicle

As Immigration Nation grows statewide, so does its cultural and political influence, Houston Chronicle

Analysis: Fight over education funding is pure Texas, Austin American-Statesman

Dallas rally today will back Rep. Johnson amid scholarship controversy, The Dallas Morning News

Perry tries to tie White to Metro deal, Houston Chronicle

Houston Scrambles After Blaze That Destroyed Voting Machines, The New York Times

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