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Senate Poll: Dewhurst Leads Texas Republicans

With Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement that she won’t run for re-election in 2012, Texas Republicans are lining up to take her place in the Senate. A new survey from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling shows Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Rep. Ron Paul would lead the GOP field.

Dewhurst, who has said publicly that he’s considering the race, led with 23 percent. The poll surveyed 400 usual primary voters from Jan. 14 to 16, starting just a day after Hutchison’s announcement. The margin of error is 4.9 points. Nineteen percent of respondents said they were undecided or preferred someone who wasn’t in the poll.

In the Senate survey Paul came in second with 21 percent, and Attorney General Greg Abbott got 14 percent. Neither has expressed interest in the race. Both were easily re-elected to their current posts in 2010.

Six more Republicans finished in single digits, including five who seem to be in varying stages of preparing for the race. Of that group, railroad commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones did best, coming in with 6 percent. She started exploring a race for the Senate seat toward the end of 2010.

Fellow railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz each finished with 3 percent, and former Secretary of State Roger Williams, endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush, got 1 percent. Leppert seems to be making moves toward running for a new office and the others have said they will run for Senate.

Rep. Joe Barton got 7 percent. He was first elected in 1984.

This will be the first open Senate seat in Texas since Sen. John Cornyn was elected in 2002, and it’s likely to be decided in the primary. Roll Call Politics rates this race Safe Republican.

The survey also looked at potential GOP presidential contenders’ popularity in the Lone Star State. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was Republicans’ top choice with 24 percent of the vote. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) got 17 percent, and Paul and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got 10 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry got 9 percent, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels finished with less than 5 percent.

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