AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry has widened his lead over former Houston Mayor Bill White and has support from more than 50 percent of likely voters for the first time in the general election race for governor, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.
The survey shows the Republican governor with a 13-point lead over his Democratic challenger, breaking into double-digits for the first time since the two candidates secured their parties' nominations in the March primaries.
Perry, seeking to win an unprecedented third four-year term, had 51 percent while White had 38 percent, his poorest showing to date, according to the pollsters. In a poll a month ago, Perry had 48 percent compared with 44 percent for White.
White's close showing against Perry in the previous poll contributed to a wide perception that Democrats could have their first serious shot at winning the governor's office since Ann Richards ended her single term as governor in 1995.
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Democrats scoffed at the latest poll, citing a recent independent analysis that questioned Rasmussen survey methods and said the New Jersey-based firm typically has more favorable results for Republican candidates than the average of other surveys.
"In 2006, we got the same complaints from Republicans because we kept showing Democrats were doing well," Scott Rasmussen, president of the firm, said in defending his polling methods. "If you're on the side that's having a tough year, you're going to do all you can to spin."
By crossing the 50 percent threshold, Perry has "a little more breathing room," the pollsters said. Rasmussen said Perry is also benefiting from his attacks on Washington and President Barack Obama's policies, including the new health care law that the president recently pushed through Congress.
"The issues that are coming out are a bit more favorable for Republicans," Rasmussen said.
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