Debra Medina isn’t going away
By Jason Embry
Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 06:33 AM

Debra Medina has always been the third person in the Republican campaign for governor. In politics you need name ID and money, and compared to her opponents, she has no money and limited name recognition. Which is why she is still the third person in the race.
But Medina’s performance in Thursday’s debate was strong enough, and her supporters are motivated enough, that she is not going to disappear as this campaign heads down the stretch. She may not determine who wins, but she cannot be ignored.
Organizers of the second debate reversed course Monday and said they will include Medina when the Republican candidates take the stage Jan. 29. Her presence on that stage not only will put her again in front of a statewide audience, but it will give her a greater role in news coverage of the race before and after the debate as well.
Medina’s supporters had flooded the hosts of the debate, the Dallas Morning News and Belo TV stations, with complaints after it was announced that she would be excluded, Gromer Jeffers Jr. reports this morning.
On paper, Medina does more damage to Gov. Rick Perry than U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Some of her best jabs in Thursday’s debate — her knowledge of the Advance Directives Act, her talk of government jobs versus private-sector jobs, her discussion of the growth of state debt and state spending — took aim at Perry. Not to mention the fact that she comes from the tea-party crowd, and this of course is a crowd that Perry has courted aggressively.
Which leads us to this: About 600 people gathered at the Capitol on Saturday for a states’-rights rally. Norman Shugar, who is 77 and came to the rally from Houston, told the Statesman’s Mike Ward, “The Republican Party tried to use us, but we’re onto them now. I was for Perry. Now, I’m for Medina.”
There was also a sign at the rally that said, “Perry: The Next Unemployed Texan.” Read more in Ward’s story.
So Medina is a threat to Perry. But she’s a threat to Hutchison also.
A new Rasmussen Poll of likely Republican primary voters showed Perry with 43 percent, Hutchison with 33 percent, Medina with 12 percent and 11 percent undecided. The poll was taken after Thursday’s debate and released Monday. The last Rasmussen poll, released in November, showed Perry at 46 percent and Hutchison at 35 percent, with Medina at 4 percent and 14 percent of respondents not sure. So Medina isn’t just grabbing up Perry voters, but rather she’s taking some of the undecided voters that Hutchison desperately needs to break her way.
So who does Medina help more? When I asked Democratic consultant Jason Stanford that question Monday night, he replied, “She pulls anti-Washington, right-wing votes from Perry and anti-Perry votes from Kay Bailey. But since she pulls Perry down from 50 percent plus one vote and forces a runoff, then she hurts him more.”
Paul Burka wrote Sunday, “I think Hutchison is in more danger from Medina than Perry is. Medina is younger and fresher than Hutchison. She has a little of Sarah Palin in her, an element of sincerity with considerably more intelligence. If she can raise money from Ron Paul’s mailing list, she might be able to make a move.
“Assuming that these numbers hold up over the next few weeks, the Republican primary race appears to be headed toward a runoff. This is very dangerous territory for an incumbent.”
One more thing about the Rasmussen poll, and I would argue this is its most telling question. Perry and Hutchison get almost identical favorable/unfavorable marks. But among voters who say they plan to vote in the Republican primary, 68 percent say they strongly approve or somewhat approve of Perry’s job performance. Just 31 percent say they somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove.
This thing isn’t over, but Hutchison’s got a lot of work to do.
• It’s a pretty good hint that when the government releases news after 8 p.m. on a Friday, they’re hoping nobody will notice. And so we had the death (or at least the coma) of the effort to expand the Governor’s Mansion, which was disclosed through a short-on-details press release that reached my inbox at 8:02. Fortunately we got it in the paper anyway.
• As expected, Farouk Shami has found quite a fan of his gubernatorial campaign in the form of, well, Farouk Shami. The Democratic candidate loaned his campaign and his exploratory committee $5.45 million through the end of the year, according to reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission. He also donated $150,000 to Hank Gilbert, who dropped out of the governor’s race, switched to the race for agriculture commissioner and endorsed Shami.
• Huge day in Massachusetts today as Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley battle to replace the late Ted Kennedy. The pundits say Brown has the momentum, and if he wins, Democrats lose their critical 60th vote. If Brown wins, “I think you could make a pretty good argument that health care might be dead,” Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, said this morning on MSNBC.

Poll watch
Some of the good stuff from inside the Rasmussen poll released Monday:
Men: 45 percent for Perry, 33 Hutchison, 13 Medina, 9 not sure
Women: 41 Perry, 34 Hutchison, 11 Medina, 13 not sure
Conservatives: 53 Perry, 25 Hutchison, 11 Medina, 11 not sure
Moderates: 23 Perry, 51 Hutchison, 17 Medina, 8 not sure

13 days until the last day to register to vote.
28 days until early voting begins.
42 days until the March 2 primary.

In the news
A gap in the way Texas cared for pregnant women sometimes cost some of the state’s most innocent residents newborn babies their lives. To remedy that, part of a law that took effect this month requires health care providers to test pregnant women for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, at some point during the last three months of pregnancy unless the woman objects. Austin American-Statesman
We now know three things about the Texas GOP gubernatorial race: 1. Only right-wing Republicans are being invited to participate. 2. The two lead candidates seem interested primarily in wiping out the other and, secondarily, the future of Texas. 3. We have a tea party candidate who seems driven primarily by her view of the world and, secondarily, her need for power. William McKenzie
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Monday called for the end of cronyism in Austin, proposing several initiatives that she said would make state government and the governor’s office more transparent and accessible. San Antonio Express-News
The federal government is about to hand out a river of cash to states willing to build a network of bullet trains, as the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress seek to slowly ease the country’s dependence on automobiles and airplanes to make short trips between its biggest cities… But while the federal grants won’t be announced until later this month, or early February, word already has emerged that Texas’ chances of snagging much of what it has requested are slim. Dallas Morning News
Collectively, they are the long-shot Democratic candidates for governor who could win their party’s nomination only through the kind of lightning-strike luck that would turn them into the feel-good movie of the year. Houston Chronicle
In the largest anti-abortion protest held in Houston in years, several thousand people on Monday marched, prayed and kept silent… After the protesters had walked silently through the Third Ward and encircled the sidewalks of the new six-acre facility, organizer Lou Engle used the Martin Luther King holiday to accuse Planned Parenthood of locating the new facility in a predominantly Hispanic and black area to target minorities for abortion services. Houston Chronicle


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