The 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers. The 1978 Boston Red Sox. The 2010 Kay Bailey Hutchison for Governor campaign.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison began this year as “Kay the Invincible.” But as she prepares to officially launch her bid for governor later this month, that aura is gone.
Hutchison entered the year with the ability to make other politicians quake. She had two re-election victories under her belt with more than 60 percent of the vote in each. Her popularity ratings in polls put her at the top among Texas politicians. And public polls showed her leading Gov. Rick Perry by anywhere from 6 to 27 percentage points.
Then Hutchison went silent — leaving the field of Texas politics to Perry for more than four months.
The senator “squandered her opportunity,” Republican political consultant Mark Sanders said. “She ceded the Republican base to Governor Perry.”
I noted the change in conventional wisdom last month. I mean, when KBH loses Paul Burka, you know it’s been bad for her.
Perhaps nothing so clearly showed Hutchison’s stumble than the fumbling series of interviews she gave last week about resigning from the Senate in October or November to run for governor. She gave mixed messages about only having to resign because it is a contested election, and she ended up urging Perry to drop out. He said no.
University of Texas political scientist James Henson said it looks like Hutchison’s advisers underestimated Perry and thought she could sit on her advantage until the campaign began.
“Kay was going to have the equivalent of a Rose Garden campaign,” Henson said, referring to the presidential election strategy of not leaving the White House except on official business.
Henson said momentum “has clearly swung in Perry’s favor,” but he said the best news for Hutchison is the vast majority of Texans still are not paying attention to the race.
Yes, but the vast majority of Texans have nothing to do with whether or not KBH will make it into next November. The only people that matter for that are the tiny slice of the electorate – some 500,000 to one million people – that will vote in the Republican primary in March. I daresay these people have been paying closer attention, if only because Perry has been talking to them every damn day for months.
Hutchison supporter Gary Polland, a former Harris County GOP chairman, said too much emphasis is placed on where Hutchison stood early in the race, as opposed to now.
“It was an aura of invincibility. I never thought it was reality,” Polland said. “The governor is an outstanding politician.”
Polland said when Hutchison officially launches her campaign she will be able to make the case that Perry is not the conservative leader he says he is and that the Texas economy is not as good as Perry claims. He said Hutchison spent the spring concentrating on her work in Washington.
“She’s not even really campaigning. Perry is always in campaign mode,” Polland said. “Once Senator Hutchison engages, the race will get close.”
Maybe. Or maybe she’s just outclassed by a politician who knows how to seize the advantage and has no qualms about getting his hands dirty. Perry has survived multiple contested races, against well-financed opponents. KBH hasn’t had to do that since 1994. We know Perry is a strong campaigner. We have no such knowledge about KBH, other than what we’ve seen so far this year, and that ain’t much. Polland’s remarks strike me as the equivalent of a football coach saying his team may be coasting now, but they’ll turn it on once the playoffs begin. How well does that usually work out?
Finally, RG Ratcliffe comes out and says what people like me have been saying for months:
Here’s some of the reasons why it makes little sense for her to resign:
1. Advice in a down economy: It’s always easier to get a job if you have a job.
2. Incumbent advantage. The biggest is that an incumbent has an easier time raising money than a non-incumbent. If you don’t believe me, just ask Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer.
3. The timing of her planned resignation coincides with Congress taking its end of the year break. So she won’t be needed in Washington until after Jan. 1 anyway. So you’re really only talking about her doing double duty in January and February.
4. A resignation gives Perry the opportunity to name Hutchison’s interim replacement. During the days it takes Perry to make that decision, the focus is on him and it shows he’s the man in charge.
5. Forget this idea that there will be a May special election to fill out her term through 2012.
Ratcliffe predicts that a fall resignation would lead to Perry declaring a January election, with a February runoff, both of which would work to his advantage in that they would keep the Republican base engaged leading up to March. As you know, I think his arguments make a lot of sense. Professor Murray, Mean Rachel, who has a great catch about KBH calling the kettle black, BOR, and Texas on the Potomac have more.