Not just any generic Democrat either. Debra Medina, businesswoman and “tea party acitivist,” 41; Bill White, mayor of Houston, 38.

She’s not an “official” tea-party candidate, of course, since there’s no such thing — for the moment.

A previous Rasmussen survey of likely Republican voters found Perry leading Hutchison 44-29 with Medina trailing at 16.

Now comes word, via a new Rasmussen Reports Poll, that Medina is gaining some traction and today all three of the Republicans lead the likely Democratic challenger, Houston Mayor Bill White.

Hutchison still performs the best, beating White by 13 points, 49-36. Perry is second-best in that hypothetical matchup, defeating White by nine, 48-39.

But now, Rasmussen’s telephone poll finds, Medina would defeat White 41-38. That’s a reversal from last month when White’s totals put him ahead of her, 44-38. Medina has gone from 4% in November to 12% in January and now 16%, apparently by cutting into Hutchison’s support.

I think her numbers against Perry and Hutchison are a bigger testament to the tea party brand than her numbers against White. It’s no big shock that a libertarian candidate would beat a Democrat in Texas in this political climate, but to pull 16 percent from two nationally famous Republicans? One of whom himself identifies with tea partiers? No mean feat. One note of warning, though:

All three possible Republican candidates post broadly similar results among both Democrats and unaffiliated voters. However, Medina currently attracts only 62% of the GOP vote, well below the totals for Perry and Hutchison. With Medina as the nominee, 23% of GOP voters say they would either prefer a third-option or are undecided.

That’s probably due to lack of name recognition, but remember that Sarahcuda’s polls show Republican support well into the teens shifting to Obama if she’s the nominee. It may be that a certain critical mass of centrist Republicans are uncomfortable with libertarian types or the “tea party label” itself. Or maybe not: A CNN poll out today shows the tea-party movement’s favorable rating split 33/26, with 24 percent claiming they’ve never heard of it and another 16 percent claiming they have no opinion.

The same poll shows Palin’s favorables at 43/46 (among indies it’s 42/47), down three points from the 46/46 split she had in early December. Exit question via Politico: Is Sarahcuda a net asset or net liability for the tea-party movement? The partiers themselves love her, of course, but having spent 18 months in the national spotlight, with all the hype from the book tour now done, and with no elected office available to help pad her resume, it seems like her favorables are probably destined to hover around the net-zero mark for the foreseeable future. Good enough? Or will she be a drag on tea-party candidates among indies and centrist Republicans?