AUSTIN — In a year when voters are raging against entrenched politicians, any candidate who has been in office for a decade and wants four more years in the same job might be expected to encounter stiff resistance.
But Rick Perry, Texas' longest-serving governor, appears to be defying anti-incumbent hostility by railing against an officeholder who isn't on the ballot: President Barack Obama.
With polls showing him comfortably ahead of Democrat Bill White en route to Tuesday's election, Perry can attribute a large share of the momentum to his success in exploiting voter discontent with Obama in particular and national Democratic policies in general.
Although the 2010 governor's race has spanned a litany of in-state issues from education to a looming budget shortfall, the Texas battle has also served as a referendum on the nearly-2-year-old Obama presidency. And by relentlessly espousing an anti-Washington message, Perry has seemingly been able to deflect many of White's attacks by channeling voter anger toward the nation's capital.
"Rick Perry has positioned himself as the anti-Obama," said Mark Jones, chairman of the political science department at Houston's Rice University. "The very strong negative opinions Texans have of President Obama hamstrung the White campaign from the start."
Perry held a 12-point lead over White in a poll conducted for the Star-Telegram and other major newspapers last week. The survey, released Thursday, showed Perry with 49 percent and White with 37 percent. Green Party nominee Deb Shafto had 3 percent, and Libertarian Kathie Glass had 2 percent.
"Anti-Washington sentiment and the desire to cut spending as the proper course for Texas have effectively trumped anti-incumbency," said the survey, conducted by New York-based Blum & Weprin Associates.
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