Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams had an eight-point lead over Democrat Ann Richards in the first independent survey since their primary victories, but James Dyer, director of the Texas Poll, said, "It's certainly not in any way a lock for Williams."
Williams, making his first political race, was backed by 46 percent of likely voters surveyed last month, while Richards, the state treasurer, was supported by 38 percent. Seventeen percent were undecided.
The poll results also appeared to confirm the assessment of a Williams campaign memorandum that has been reported in Texas newspapers. It said the GOP candidate, who has projected a macho, cowboy image, "has created a battle of the sexes."
In the Texas Poll, Williams had a substantial advantage among men, leading Richards 54 to 32 percent, while Richards had a small advantage among women, 43 to 39 percent.
Williams has been accused of sexism and insensitivity for joking about rape -- comparing the experience to bad Texas weather -- and for admitting to being "serviced" by prostitutes as a youth.
Forty-one percent of the women surveyed said the remarks made them less likely to vote for Williams, while only 23 percent of the men said it would make a difference. Overall, 33 percent of those surveyed said the comments made them less likely to vote for Williams, while 61 percent said it made no difference.
Campaigning Tuesday in San Antonio, Williams dismissed continuing questions about his political standing with Texas women. "I'll say one thing," Williams told a large meeting, "I'm not going to talk about the weather."