Perry has big lead in Texas governor's race: poll

Texas Governor Rick Perry gestures during a speech at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana April 9, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican who has tapped into a deep anti-Washington mood, has a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Bill White, according to a poll released on Friday.

The poll, conducted for the Dallas Morning News and several other state newspapers, shows Perry with a 12-point lead over White among likely voters at 49 percent to 37 percent heading into the election on Tuesday.

Perry, already the longest-serving governor in Texas history who is seeking his third full term, has drawn from the rich vein of conservative discontent with President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. In his campaign, Perry has rarely mentioned White, instead heaping criticism on Obama.

Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, said Perry astutely jumped early on the bandwagon of the conservative Tea Party movement, which is seen having a big impact on races across the country on Tuesday when U.S. voters will elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and fill 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

Perry caused a nationwide stir last year when he openly pondered secession from the United States in the face of Obama’s agenda such as healthcare reform. Such tactics helped to seal his popularity with conservatives.

Perry is especially popular with social and religious conservatives, a key base for the Republican Party. White is a former mayor of Houston who has championed clean energy in a state better known for Big Oil.

The economic performance of Texas, America’s second most populous state, is also helping Perry. The state’s unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in September, well below the national average of 9.6 percent.

The poll of 673 likely Texas voters was conducted October 22 to 27 by Blum & Weprin Associates Inc. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Editing by Eric Beech