Perry Camp confident, Tea Partiers less than thrilled

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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Update 10:40 pm: AP is reporting that Hutchison is conceding the race to Gov. Rick Perry.

Glenn Beck has done it again: A question from the conservative TV host may prevent Tea Party candidate Debra Medina from forcing a run-off in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary.

Today’s primary was supposed to be a heated contest between two-term incumbent governor Rick Perry and moderate Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, but with Perry enjoying a huge lead in recent polls the question turned quickly to whether Medina could garner enough of the vote to force a run-off. An April run-off would take place if none of the candidates manage to garner 50 percent of the vote, but on Tuesday afternoon a Perry spokesman said his camp expects the governor to win the primary outright.

“We’re not expecting a run-off, we’re confident that [Perry] is going to win,” said campaign spokesman Mike Miner.

Miner said Perry’s focus on job creation and controlling spending has resonated with voters, a focus he plans to retain if he is re-elected. Miner also said the socially conservative governor is a friend of the Tea Party movement.

“Gov. Perry has been very involved in the Tea Party movement, he shares the same concerns,” Miner said, citing federal spending, earmarks, the fiscal deficit and taxpayer-funded bailouts as among the issues on which Perry sympathizes with Tea Party activists.

Perry’s support on those issues was not enough to prevent Tea Party activists from propelling the candidacy of Debra Medina, a former GOP county chairwoman who believes states can nullify federal laws they deem unconstitutional. Medina’s candidacy gathered steam after two impressive debate performances in January, but her numbers have slipped after she fumbled a question from Glenn Beck related to 9/11 “truthers”. Medina’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Medina’s fall from grace has strengthened Perry’s position while sapping some of the energy from the the Lone Star State’s grassroots activists. Ryan Hecker, a Tea Party activist from Houston said, “It’s not like there is a Marco Rubio in this race,” referencing the Tea Party-beloved candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida.

Medina, Hecker said, appeared to have had some “Scott Brown-like momentum” during the early stages of the campaign but much of that was lost when she appeared on Beck’s Fox News show and said she didn’t know if the government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Between Perry and Hutchinson the former is viewed as more conservative and has successfully framed his opponent as part of the Washington establishment, making him the natural recipient of Medina’s former supporters. But he may have trouble convincing activists that he really supports their agenda; his expensive plan to overhaul the state’s roads has drawn criticism from both of his opponents. Hutchinson’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Hecker said Perry “is very political savvy” and has successfully courted activists, making an effort last April 15th to show up at rallies across the state, but “he hasn’t been a truly conservative governor, so he doesn’t generate that type of excitement.”

“I think at the end of the day, he’ll probably win, and I’ll probably vote for him, but he doesn’t have that type of excitement that a Rubio has.”

Alex Pappas contributed reporting to this article