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Excerpt

The following is from the February 14, 2010, edition of The New York Times. SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

February 15, 2010

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

HOUSTON — Some days it is hard to be a neophyte far-right candidate in a governor’s race, even in Texas, where Republicans vying for the party’s nomination try to outdo one another to prove their conservative credentials.

Debra Medina found that out when she appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show last week and fumbled a question about whether she agreed with conspiracy theorists who think the Bush administration was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard,” she said. “There’s some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there.”

Mr. Beck, an admirer of Gov. Rick Perry, ridiculed her right away, saying, “I think I can write her off the list.”

Within hours, Mr. Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, his heavyweight Republican opponent in the primary race, pounced on Ms. Medina’s response. . .

There is a growing belief among Republican strategists here that if Ms. Medina can control the damage from Thursday’s radio gaffe, she might force a runoff. Her opponents are finding it harder to ignore her. Even her detractors acknowledged that she performed well in two televised debates, mounting fierce attacks on Mr. Perry and staking out positions to his right — no easy feat, because he is widely considered to be among the nation’s most conservative governors.

“She has proven to be a more formidable candidate than many thought,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “She showed well in the debates, because Perry and Hutchison were squabbling like schoolchildren.” 

Read the full story.

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