TEXAS’ FUNKY COLD MEDINA…. One of the nation’s most fascinating primary contest is Texas’ Republican gubernatorial primary. What was once a contest of two heavyweights has turned into a bizarre three-way affair.

Incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, who’s still the frontrunner, has been going up against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in a fairly heated confrontation. But recently, Tea Party activist Debra Medina, a nurse and political neophyte, has been coming on strong, gathering support with the right-wing fringe (which isn’t a small number when we’re talking about Texas GOP primary voters).

Medina’s momentum hit a speed-bump yesterday.

Fox News pundit Glenn Beck threw a wrench into Debra Medina’s Texas gubernatorial campaign Thursday when he asked her about her opinion on whether the 9/11 terrorist attack was an inside job. […]

Beck asked her, “Do you believe the government was any way involved with the bringing down of the World Trade Centers on 9/11?”

“I don’t, I don’t have all of the evidence there, Glenn,” Medina said. “So I don’t, I’m not in a place, I have not been out publicly questioning that. I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there. So I’ve not taken a position on that.”

Later in the interview, Medina tried to clarify her remarks, first saying that she wasn’t going to take a position on the issue, then saying, “These questions have been raised and they are not answered.”

After the radio interview, Beck told listeners, “I think I can write her off the list.”

Like Adam Serwer, I can’t help but find this rather amusing — Glenn Beck thinks one of his like-minded allies is nuts for lending credence to a bizarre conspiracy theory. As Adam explained, “That’s a lot of crazy theories without any evidence to believe. So you can hardly blame tea-party folks if they get confused about which evidence-free conspiracy theories are OK, which ones you have to believe to be taken seriously as a member of the movement, and which evidence-free conspiracy theories might get you disavowed. It’s confusing!”

For Medina, it’s apparently very confusing. She recently told Alex Jones that she agreed that there’s “Soviet brainwashing” in the Texas police. Medina also expressed outrage that Texas hasn’t nullified federal laws (a.k.a., secession lite). And, of course, she’s a Birther.

This is interesting in a campaign context — whether Medina’s radical ideas help her chances or hurt remains to be seen — but it’s also a reminder about that the Tea Party crowd can be genuinely fanatical. Some like to characterize these folks as mainstream Americans, with reasonable concerns about taxes and deficits. That may describe some of the “movement,” but there’s also a sizable extremist contingent.

As Dave Weigel explained, “I think because the mainstream media were slow to cover the Tea Parties as anything but a ridiculous joke, there’s been a lot of overcompensating that imbues these activists with fresh, bold, out-of-nowhere political tactics. But that the fact is that some people on the political fringes have made lateral moves from Alex Jones-listening or Obama birth certificate-sleuthing or Bilderberg-obsessing into the Tea Party Movement. And if Glenn Beck hadn’t decided to see how far Medina wanted to go with this, she’d be on track to get into a gubernatorial run-off.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.