AUSTIN, Texas _ With just over five weeks before the Nov. 2 election, Texas Gov. Rick Perry holds a seven-point lead over Democratic challenger Bill White and appears to be withstanding a strong anti-incumbency tide among voters, despite his 10 years in office as the state's longest-serving governor, according to a statewide poll by the Star-Telegram and other major Texas newspapers.
The survey also suggests that many voters agree with one of Perry's central campaign themes: that Texas has fared better than most states have during the economic downturn and is heading in the right direction under his leadership. But at the same time, pollsters said, Perry hasn't reached a "safe" 50 percent threshold and therefore remains vulnerable to a potential surge by White.
Perry leads White by 46 percent to 39 percent, according to the poll, conducted Sept. 15-22 by Blum & Weprin Associates. Libertarian Kathie Glass, a Houston attorney who hopes to cut into Perry's conservative base, has 4 percent. Green Party candidate Deb Shafto, a retired Houston schoolteacher, has less than 1 percent.
Eight percent remain undecided, while 3 percent declined to give a preference.
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White, a former three-term Houston mayor seeking to become the first Democratic governor in more than 15 years, has clearly broadened his appeal since entering the race in late 2009, nearly doubling his favorable rating among voters over the past seven months.
But up to a third of the voters say they still don't know enough about White to have an opinion, suggesting that he has a formidable challenge in the weeks ahead.
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