Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent
AUSTIN – A new poll on the eve of State Sen. Wendy Davis’ expected entry into the 2014 Texas governor’s race shows the Fort Worth Democrat trailing Texas Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, the Republican front-runner, by eight points, although many voters remain undecided in the potential matchup. The poll by the Texas Lyceum, a statewide non-partisan leadership group, shows Abbott with 29 percent, compared to 21 percent for Davis. But 50 percent of the state’s registered voters say they don’t know which candidate they would choose, according to the survey, which was conducted Sept. 6-Sept. 20 Davis, who rose to nationwide political stardom by staging a filibuster against a Republican-backed abortion restriction bill that ultimately was signed into law, will unveil her political intentions at a rally on Thursday in the Wiley G. Thomas Coliseum In Haltom City, where she received her high school diploma 32 years ago.
The two-term senator, who represents District 10 in Tarrant County, appears virtually certain to plunge into the race although she has declined to publicly confirm her plans in the lead-up to her announcement. Thousands of supporters are expected to pack the more than 3,000-person capacity coliseum, while others are planning “watch parties” across the state. The Texas Democratic Party and affiliated groups have staged “We Want Wendy” campaigns urging her to make the race, hoping the immensely popular Fort Worth Democratic leader can help the party rebound from years of statewide defeats. She is frequently compared to the late Gov. Ann Richards, who served from 1991 to 1995 and was the last Democrat to hold the office. The Lyceum Poll, in a breakdown of demographic groups, showed the potential rivals in a statistic tie for the women’s vote, with Abbott holding a slight lead – 25 percent – to Davis’ 23 percent, within the poll’s 3.47 percent margin of error. Fifty-one percent of women remain undecided on an Abbott-Davis matchup Davis holds a solid lead among minorities, according to the poll. Davis has a 26-point lead among African-Americans – 36 percent to 10 percent – and among Hispanics, Davis leads Abbott 22 percent to 18 percent, although more than 40 per cent of voters in those constituencies are still keeping their options open. Among white voters, Abbott is the clear favorite, leading by 41 percent to 17 percent. Forty-one percent of whites have not picked a favorite in a prospective Abbott-Davis race. Seventy-four percent of the state’s independent registered voters, which both campaigns would target intensely to augment their partisan support, are still undecided, according to the poll. But among those who have a preference in the Nov. 4, 2014, election, Abbott leads Davis by 18 percent to eight percent. “Once again, the Republicans continue to dominate the ballot for governor and all legislative offices,” said pollster and University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw, who has conducted the Lyceum Poll for the past seven years. “On the other side of the ledger, those Democrats hoping to turn the state blue in the short term might also take solace in the fact that more than half of the electorate isn’t yet engaged with the 2014 elections,” Shaw said.
Abbott, who has been widely portrayed as the Republican heir-apparent to outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Perry, is the clear favorite among Republican primary voters, with 22 percent of the vote compared to only negligible support for his chief GOP rival Tom Pauken, a former state Republican Party chairman. At the same time, however, the survey showed that the primary race is still wide-open; 69 percent of the respondents said they haven’t formed an opinion. The survey also suggests that Republicans still hold the upper-hand among voters. . Twenty-nine percent of registered voters said they would choose the Republican candidate for Congress compared to 23 percent for the Democrat. For the Texas Legislature, 23 percent said they would choose the Republican compared to 19 percent for the Democrat. Texans remain positive about the state’s economy but believe the worst is yet to come for the national economy. Sixty-two percent of Texas adults believe the Texas economy is better off than the rest of the country while only 32 percent of Texans expressed the opinion that the national economy has improved over last year. The poll, released Wednesday, shows positive overall job approval ratings for state and federal elected leaders. Fifty percent of registered voters agree that President Obama is doing a good job as president, and 56 percent of registered voters approve of Perry’s job performance.