THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Does Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the bag?
It might look that way, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which shows Dewhurst — with 27 percent of the vote — running far ahead of any of the other likely candidates looking to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The next-closest contender, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, scored just 5 percent of the vote.
But with the primary still a year away, Dewhurst — who hasn't yet declared his candidacy — faces stiff competition from none other than Undecided, which nabbed 52 percent of the vote and, pollster Daron Shaw says, indicates the crowded field is still wide open.
"If it's Dewhurst, he's ahead. For everybody else, the good news is that no one has become the clear alternative, and 52 percent of the voters are still undecided," Shaw says. "Not any of these candidates has locked down the kind of support they need to win a Republican primary."
On the Democratic side, Chris Bell, the former U.S. representative and gubernatorial candidate, leads an even-more-uncertain Democratic field with 16 percent support, ahead of former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards' 13 percent and former Comptroller John Sharp's 12 percent. Almost 60 percent said they hadn't decided.
The poll also surveyed Texans' views on the direction of the state and the country. Respondents, 59 percent to 26 percent, said the country is on the wrong track. And 55 percent said they disapprove of President Barack Obama's work as president. But voters split, 41 percent to 41 percent, over the direction of the state. Gov. Rick Perry registered a 40-percent disapproval rating.
As for important state issues, immigration and border security again led the pack. But the budget shortfall, which only 3 percent listed as an issue in the last UT/TT poll, now has more worrying, topping the list of 11 percent of voters.
For the full results and other findings, like how a Tea Party candidate might affect the Senate race, check out Ross Ramsey's full story.
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