Crashing the Texas Tea Party
The latest polling out of Texas is great for Debra Medina and terrible for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Here's what it means for the GOP.
Last week I highlighted the increasingly odd Republican primary for the Texas governor's mansion, where Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry were expected to engage in a can't-miss intra-party heavyweight battle. Instead, the race has been transformed by the emergence of a third candidate, the pro-secession, pro-sovereignty, (and very, very pro-gun) conservative activist Debra Medina. Medina has used social media, grassroots organizing, and a tireless anti-government message to compete with the two heavyweights—and now, according to a new PPP poll (pdf), she just might win.
The odds are still against her, but Medina now finds herself within the margin of error against Hutchison in the battle for second place; she gets 24 percent of likely voters while Hutchison wins 28 percent. With Perry still well below the majority he'd need to win the primary outright, it's looking more and more likely that we'll end up in a run-off. Medina would have a lot of ground to make up, but the momentum would be on her side. (And Perry, despite his longevity, isn't exactly Mr. Popularity in the Lone Star State: He was re-elected with just 39 percent of the vote in 2006). Katherine Haenschen has a pretty good breakdown of what this all means.
Medina's ascent, along with the news that Tea Party godfather Rep. Ron Paul (a Medina supporter!) is facing three primary challengers of his own, offers a reminder of just how foggy the Tea Party movement really is. Perry, having himself broached the idea of secession and having earned the endorsement of Sarah Palin, would seem very much to be the "Tea Party darling," Politico said he is. But Medina has, improbably enough, managed to carve out a platform even further to right than Perry's. Given the fragmented state of affairs in Texas, attempting to apply any sort of unified ideology to the Tea Party (aside from, maybe, "dissatisfied") seems like an unwinnable proposition at this point.