Republican Texas and the special case of Hillary Clinton

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According to that poll last week showing that Hillary Clinton could carry Texas, 50 percent of voters there have a favorable opinion of her, and only 43 percent have a negative one.

Two months ago, President Obama lost the state by 16 points to Mitt Romney. But Clinton beats Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, within the margin of error, and she trounces Texas Gov. Rick Perry by eight points.

That head-to-head number with Perry has gotten the most attention, but it actually says less about Clinton than it does about Perry, who's notched 3.5 terms at this point, and is grating on the homestate electorate.

He suffered some serious slippage as early as 2005, when Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a fellow Republican, got 18 percent running as an independent, and Perry scraped together 39 percent to win with a plurality. To make up for it, he ran hard against Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary in 2010, as the Tea Party guy against the Washington outsider, and then beat Houston mayor Bill White in a year that Democrats were never really going to win.

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His 2012 presidential run didn't help matters. A PPP poll from earlier this week reported less than a third of Texans hoping for another Perry candidacy next year, with 62 percent wanting him to step aside. His favorable-unfavorable is at 41-54, putting him in Rick Scott territory among unpopular governors.

Still, Clinton's numbers against Rubio and Christie should embolden Democrats, who recently announced that President Obama's field director would be spearheading an effort to make Texas a true battleground state.

In some ways, it's already closer than people realize. The state hasn't voted for a Democrat for presidential since it narrowly went for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but Gallup recently downgraded Texas from a Republican to a Competitive state, based on the number of people who identify with each party, and particularly on the idea that increasing numbers of Democratic-voting Hispanics and black voters will close the registration gap.

But there is a danger in extrapolating too much from Clinton's standing in Texas.

She currently cleans up with independent voters across the country, and Texas is no exception.

Among self-described "moderates" in the Texas poll, Clinton's favorability is 72-20, and she beats Christie 63-18, Rubio 69-18 and Perry by a whopping 76-17.

“A generic Democratic candidate or a Democratic candidate that doesn’t have special circumstances would be a very large underdog,” the chairman of the state's Republican Party told the Austin American-Statesman. “However, the polls we have here I think are Clinton-specific.”