The Austin Chronicle

Abbott Leads, but Davis Catching Up

By Richard Whittaker, August 8, 2014, 9:36pm, Newsdesk

Two weeks ago, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, seemed to be bleeding out in her fight for the governor's mansion with Attorney General Greg Abbott. Now a new poll – one from a historically right-leaning pollster – puts her out of the double-digit death zone, and has Texas shifting from the "safe Republican" category to only "leans Republican."

In numbers released today by Rasmussen Reports, Abbott still leads at 48%, with Davis at 40%. Third party candidates took 3%, while 9% of respondents were undecided. That's from a poll of 850 likely voters, conducted on August 4-5. This all comes with a +/- 3.5% margin of error, which could conceivably put Davis back in double-digit danger, or within an extremely interesting five point striking distance of her Republican opponent.

Those headline numbers are still not great for Davis, but they are a huge improvement over the July 28 numbers from by CBS, The New York Times, and YouGov, which put her on the business end of a dismal 17 point disadvantage, 54% to 37%.

Significantly, it's an improvement over Rasmussen's last numbers, from March, when Davis was down 12 points, 53% to 41%. Abbott still leads Davis trust on key issues like spending and taxes, and he leads in the nebulous "very favorable impressions," 27% to 33%, but he's slipped seven points there since March. That's really significant, because those numbers shifted while Davis' campaign was widely considered to be in some kind of freefall. Now with Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, heading up her campaign, and the gloves coming off with her new take no prisoners tactics, Democrats will probably be looking to turn that tide even further.

Digging down into the questions raises some other issues. The poll only asks about likelihood to vote for Abbott or Davis by name. What happens when Libertarian Kathie Glass or the Green Party's Brandon Parmer is added to the mix?

Elsewhere in the numbers, it's good news for Sen. John Cornyn, but not such rosy news for Gov. Rick Perry. The Republican senior senator for Texas leads Democratic challenger David Alameel 47% to 29% (the remainder break 6% for third party candidates and, as Rasmussen notes, a "surprisingly high" 19% undecided.) Maybe that means Cornyn can spend some time consoling Perry: The governor, who is headed to Iowa and has just formed RickPAC for a presumed 2016 presidential run, only has 40% of respondents saying they would vote for him as president. If he can't count on his home state, where can he count on?

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