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Kay Bailey Hutchison

Don’t forget Kay!

Salon looks at recent GOP history to preview the 2012 Senate primaries:

As it is, though, the Tea Party is out of Republican targets for 2010. But 2012 is just around the corner, and the Tea Party may pick up right where it left off when the next round of Senate primaries convenes..

This, at least, is what history suggests. The last time there was this much upheaval within the GOP was in the late 1970s, in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s challenge to President Gerald Ford in the 1976 primaries. While Reagan fell just inches short in that race, the writing was on the wall: The GOP’s demographics were changing and the conservative wing that Reagan represented would soon dominate; Ford’s win would be the Rockefeller crowd’s last stand.

After ’76, New Right activists set out to purge the remaining liberal Republicans from the party — a task that only took on more urgency when liberal Republican senators provided critical votes for Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal treaty in 1977. To the right, this represented a blatant sellout of American sovereignty. In the 1978 midterms, the right organized several high-profile primary challenges. In New Jersey, they united behind a Reagan aide named Jeffrey Bell and took out an icon of liberal Republicanism, four-term Sen. Clifford Case. In Massachusetts, they rallied around a radio talk-show host and anti-busing crusader named Avi Nelson and nearly knocked off Sen. Ed Brooke, the only black Republican ever elected to the Senate. There was no collective name for the movement that did this, but in spirit and style, it was very much the Tea Party’s precursor.

And the movement didn’t stop in ’78 — not with Reagan running again in 1980, and not with liberal Republicans still roaming the halls of Congress. Down went Sen. Jacob Javits, Herbert Lehman’s literal and ideological Senate heir, in New York’s ’80 GOP primary, felled by a then-obscure Al D’Amato. Only after Reagan’s election did the purge mentality cease.

If that model holds, the Tea Party will be just as thirsty for GOP blood in ’12 as it is today — still enraged by TARP votes the way the New Right was still infuriated by the Panama Canal treaty in ’80.

Because only 10 GOP-held Senate seats will be up in ’12 — a consequence of the party’s drubbing in 2006 and weak showing in 2000 — only three incumbents seem at obvious risk of becoming the next Bennett or Murkowski: Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar.

You know who else is up in 2012? Our own Kay Bailey Hutchison, that’s who. And there’s already trouble on the horizon for her.

It’s not that Texas Republicans don’t like her. Despite her primary loss earlier this year she still has a positive 56/28 approval spread with them. It’s not even necessarily that they think she’s too liberal- 38% of them do, but 44% think that ideologically she’s ‘about right.’

But if you give them the choice of a more conservative alternative to Hutchison Texas Republicans are ready to ditch her in a minute. Only 25% of them generally say they’d vote for Hutchison if she faced a challenger from the right, while 62% say they’d pick the insurgent option.

PPP tested a hypothetical matchup between KBH and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, and while she led him by 21 points, she only garnered 34%. That doesn’t sound too secure to me. And that’s just one possible opponent for her. Anyone want to bet against Dan Patrick deciding he wants to trade up? You can write her obituary now if that happens.

Now maybe they overlooked KBH because they think she’s not running again in 2012. Clearly, they need to ask around a bit if that’s what they thought. She has time to try to mode to the right, though I doubt it would help. It’ll be interesting to see what she does. Who knows, maybe this time she really will step down. Stranger things have happened.

And since we can’t reasonably claim we didn’t see this coming, it’s not too early for Democrats to start thinking about who we’d like to have on the ballot that year. There are the candidates who are running statewide this year, all of whom I hope are unavailable due to incumbency, and there are the mandatory possibilities, but if I had to name my first round draft choice for this race, it’d be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. You got a better choice? Go ahead and leave it in the comments.

Republicans for White

I’ve said before that Rick Perry can win, or at least he believes he can win, on Republican voters alone. Bill White needs to draw crossover support. With 49 percent of Republican primary voters choosing someone other than Perry, that certainly can happen. This is anecdotal evidence of that, and as such to be taken lightly, but it’s still evidence.

Wales Madden Jr., an Amarillo attorney and civic leader, cast his first Republican vote in 1948, for almost-President Thomas E. Dewey. Although he admits to voting for Democrats in the 1950s and 1960s, when Texas Republicans were a rare breed, he has voted almost exclusively GOP since Democrat-turned-Republican John Connally asked him to be the statewide party chairman for his presidential bid in 1976.

When his candidate for governor, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, fell to Gov. Rick Perry, he switched his support to Democrat Bill White.

Madden is one of a number of former Hutchison supporters who have crossed parties to support the former Houston mayor, including Houstonians Matt Simmons, CEO of Simmons & Co. International, and James Flores, CEO of Plains Exploration & Production Co.

In a Republican-red state like Texas, White has to lure crossover voters, big-ticket and otherwise, if he is to have any chance at all of defeating the longest-serving governor in Texas history, although wooing Republicans and independents remains a challenge for the party.

“Having worked pretty well with local Republicans, White has a pretty good chance to make some inroads,” University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said, “but it’s hard to bring these voters around.”

I can’t really say I’ve seen any sign of this in the polling data we have so far, but since the bulk of that is Rasmussen, it’s basically an open question at this point. One place to look for clues will be in the campaign finance reports that will come out in July. If White has picked up a significant number of Hutchison supporters, or just people with a history of giving to Republicans, that will be something. If not, it may mean they’re biding their time.

Other former Hutchison supporters now with White remain in the closet, so to speak, according to a prominent political fundraiser who works primarily for Republicans and who wishes to remain anonymous himself.

These voters, the fund-raiser noted, have been twice burned by Hutchison – first, in her 2006 flirtation with the governor’s office and then in her recent, less-than-spectacular governor’s race. Although they cannot support their party’s nominee, they worry about his long memory. They are inclined to lay low until they can determine whether White gains traction.

A strong poll result would be helpful, as would a strong showing on the fundraising report. Everybody likes backing the winning horse.

Speaking of polls, Rasmussen has its June result out, and after last month’s attempt at narrative-setting, it’s back in line with earlier numbers at 48-40. I look forward to hearing the explanations for White’s “comeback” from everyone who groped for one last month to explain Perry’s “surge”.

KBH in 2012

I keep telling you, it’s going to happen.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t decided whether to retire at the end of 2012, and the possibility that she’ll run again leaves a major question mark over the already competitive field of candidates lined up to replace her.

After earlier declining to discuss her plans, saying she is focused solely on her job, the Republican said this week she has set no deadline on deciding whether to seek another six-year term.

“There is no timetable,” she said. “I don’t want to be hounded for the next whatever time period it is. I’m not thinking about it right now.”

Is there anyone better then KBH at changing her tune while giving a non-answer? Here’s what she said last time, which was all of three weeks ago:

“It never really crossed my mind to stay,” Hutchison said. “But it has been rewarding to stay because I’ve been able to do some important things already.”

Notice the subtle shift from “I don’t want to think about it” to “I don’t want to think about it right now”. It’s such a pleasure to watch a master at work. I predict the next time she speaks of it, it will be to vaguely allude to a time frame in which she will want to think about it, and then to set a deadline for making a decision that she’ll feel free to ignore. The anticipation is making me all goose-bumpy.

You know what’s coming next, right?

Thank goodness I don’t have to pay a royalty for that.

Federal funds for transit shortfalls proposed

This is a good idea.

Transit agencies forced to raise fares or cut service to close budget gaps would be eligible for $2 billion in emergency operating funds under legislation unveiled today by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and seven other Democratic senators, including two members of the party’s leadership.

The transit operating bill would authorize $2 billion in federal grants aimed at helping local transit agencies reverse already-imposed service cuts, fare increases, or worker layoffs — provided that those changes were forced by a shortfall in state or local transport budgets that took effect after January 1, 2009. Any agency planning future service cuts or fare hikes could use their grant money to stave off those moves until September 2011.

“While families continue to struggle to make ends meet, the last thing we should do is make it harder and more expensive for people to get to work,” Dodd said in a statement. “This bill will prevent disruptive service cuts and help put money back in the pockets of families when they need it most.”

Those transit agencies not pursuing service cuts, fare hikes, or layoffs would be allowed to use the extra federal money for maintenance or repair of existing infrastructure. The transit operating funds would be distributed according to existing formulas, but the authorizing nature of the bill means that the money will also need to be appropriated in a separate piece of legislation.

Metro’s fare increase predates this, so if this bill passes it will not affect what you pay now. But we could see future service cuts or fare increases due to sales tax revenue shortfalls, and even if we do manage to escape all that, if I’m reading this correctly Metro would be able to get a few bucks for maintenance and repair anyway. As such, I look forward to seeing Bill King’s op-ed in the Chronicle exhorting Senators Cornyn and Hutchison to get behind this, since he’s made such a big issue of how much bus and train fares cost commuters. Even if Houston doesn’t directly reap that benefit, it would still be money in the pockets of many working families.

Anyway. I support this, though what I really want to see is more federal funds overall for transit. This is a stopgap measure that is needed and will do a lot of good if it passes, but a stopgap is all that it is. We need to be thinking bigger than that.

Putting all that unpleasantness behind her

It’s like she never intended to leave.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison still lives out of a hotel here and calls herself a “commuter” from Dallas.

But she has otherwise cemented her return to the Senate since losing the Republican primary for governor to Rick Perry. After announcing in late March that she would stay in the Senate through the end of her term in early 2013, Hutchison has rejoined the Senate GOP leadership, hired a new chief of staff and generally taken on the more public persona that has marked her career.

“This is the Kay that I’m used to,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “This is the Kay we are accustomed to.”

Hutchison’s increased exposure is partly a function of her expertise on several current hot-button issues, including NASA and financial regulations. But friends and colleagues said it is also a sign that any fatigue from the governor’s race has dissipated. And being active in Texas issues during the remaining 2 ½ years of her term could help her rehabilitate her political image after her resounding loss to Perry.


Hutchison’s decision to stay scrambled the state’s political scene, as several prominent candidates had already started gearing up for an election to serve out her term – including some Hutchison told personally that she was leaving the Senate.

She said she hasn’t given any thought to whether she will run for re-election in 2012. And the senator and her staff made it clear that she did not want to discuss the primary contest against Perry. Hutchison has not answered questions about the campaign since her loss on March 2.

You know what happens next, right? After the dithering comes the announcement that she’ll be running for re-election again in 2012. You know what this means:

She just makes it too easy.

Sixty thousand and counting

In March, the Dallas Morning News wrote about how Rick Perry was running a new kind of campaign.

Rick Perry’s campaign has a radical approach that eschews traditional voter turnout efforts in favor of extensive use of social media networks to win Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Haven’t seen a Perry yard sign? There aren’t any, and Perry has no local office to house them. Dreading yet another phone call from a political candidate? Don’t worry; Perry has no phone banks. And you probably won’t see supporters with T-shirts knocking at the door.

But you may get a Facebook message from a friend in your social circle. You’re more likely to find Perry campaign appeals on Twitter, even craigslist, than to see his mug on a highway billboard.

As of this minute, 60,848 people like the Bill White for Texas Facebook page. In comparison, the Govenror Rick Perry Facebook page has just 36,341 people who like it. All that, and you can get a bumper sticker and a yard sign from Team Bill, too. Well, it is a different kind of campaign and all.

Everybody understands the dynamics of this race. White will keep reaching out to independents and Republicans because he needs them to win, while Perry will continue to pander to the wingnuts because he thinks that’s all he needs; besides, they’re the only people he knows how to talk to. Perry can be all about flash and sizzle, while White will keep on doing the hard work to win people over.

A smattering of Republicans across the state is with White, including some well-known friends of vanquished Perry rival Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Dallas businesswoman Lucy Billingsley, a statewide leader in Hutchison’s campaign for governor, calls White a “strong fiscal conservative.”

“He’s smart, and the job he did as Houston mayor was fantastic,” she said.


Mark Smith, the former chairman of Hutchison’s youth coalition in Dallas, said he plans to vote for every Republican on the November ballot, except for Perry.

Smith says he likes White’s emphasis on improving education. He has criticized the governor about the state’s dropout rate and recent curriculum changes approved by the State Board of Education.

“White has Texas in his heart,” Smith said. “He puts people before politics.”

Wouldn’t that be nice to have in Austin for a change? White got a more high profile endorsement on Friday.

The longtime Republican mayor of Grand Prairie, Charles England, this afternoon endorsed Democrat Bill White for governor.

“We need to change Austin. For too long, the state has been divided into red teams and blue teams,” England said.

He appeared with White, the former mayor of Houston, at a campaign event in Grand Prairie.

“He’s a moderate politician, and that’s what this state needs,” England said.

Slow and steady, that’s what it takes. I found Perry’s reaction to this endorsement to be curious.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner dismissed the endorsement, saying it would not “hide the fact that Bill White is a liberal trial lawyer.” Miner also said Perry would unveil endorsements in the coming months that reflect “wide support” throughout Texas.

“We’re confident that we’ll have support from many people who support the governor’s policies,” Miner said.

Is it just me, or does this sound like the sort of thing that an underdog challenger would say? In the primary, Perry was making fun of KBH for her relative paucity of endorsements, and now he’s saying “just you wait and see”? Bravado and swagger is what I expect from Rick Perry, not pluck and spunkiness. I’m probably making something out of nothing here, but this statement struck a dissonant chord.

From the “Tell us something we didn’t know” department

We don’t actually need the CREW crew to tell us that we have one of the worst Governors in the country. We’ve known that for a long time. But it never gets old saying it, and I must admit their timing is pretty good. So thanks, CREW. We do appreciate it. The Trib, Texas on the Potomac, and BOR have more.

For what it’s worth, I thought that when KBH finally got around to campaigning and started running ads about Rick Perry’s crony-tastic behavior, it was one of the few effective things she did in that race. (You can see those ads here if you need a refresher.) Maybe, just maybe, if she’d started pounding him with some of that stuff a lot earlier, before he’d thoroughly decapitated her, she might have remained competitive. We’ll never know about that, but I hope we’ll get to see how it works in the general election.

KBH to make her decision today

I don’t know about you, but my breath is bated.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has called a press conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday in San Antonio and is expected to announce whether she will stay in the Senate for the rest of her term.

Sen. John Cornyn, her fellow Texas Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will join her for the announcement. Cornyn confirmed on Twitter that he would be on hand but did not elaborate.

Hutchison’s aides could not be reached late Tuesday.

Hutchison said last fall that she would resign her Senate seat after the March primary for governor, which she lost handily to Gov. Rick Perry. But she has been very quiet about those plans since her loss, and several sources close to her have said in recent weeks that she was unsure about what the next step should be.

Texas Republicans in the U.S. House have encouraged her to finish her term, which ends in 2012. So have McConnell and Cornyn, and the fact that they will join her Wednesday could indicate that she’s going to stay in the Senate. A decision to stay would hardly come as a shock to most insiders, many of whom never believed that she would resign if she lost.

I guess that makes me an insider, because I sure as hell never believed she would quit. There really isn’t much else to say here, so let’s just take advantage of what may be the last time I’ll get to run this video:

I say it may be the last time because as always, nobody knows what KBH will do. When she starts floating trial balloons about maybe running for re-election in 2012, I’ll break it out again.

UPDATE: One wannabe replacement candidate down, several thousand more to go.

UPDATE: The circle is complete:

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will announce Wednesday morning she will stay in the Senate, flip-flopping on her resignation promise that left several candidates eager for the chance to succeed her.

Sometimes this stuff is just too easy. I mean seriously, who is surprised by this?

Some Republicans argued that the GOP’s electoral fortunes in 2010 make it more than likely the party could hold onto the seat — and that the 2012 landscape could change dramatically, particularly if President Barack Obama is in a strong position to win reelection.

“This is a selfish decision but not a surprising one,” said one Republican who was eager for Hutchison to retire. “The wind is at our backs this year, and it was the best chance we had of getting a solid Republican in this seat. Sen. Hutchison has put the seat at greater risk by pushing the vacancy off until 2012. We have no idea what the political landscape will look like two years from now.”

You sure she’s not going to change her mind again and decide to run for re-election? Say it with me: Nobody knows what KBH is going to do. Why should 2012 be any different?

I’ll worry about what the 2012 landscape might look like another time. For now I’d be more concerned about what Democrat would be in the best position to win that seat. Yes, I know, we already have one running. Let’s just say I think we should keep our options open.

Time for KBH to kick the can down the road again

The Senate is on the verge of passing the fixes to the health care reform bill that the House ratified on Sunday, but that’s not important right now. What really matters is that this means Senator Hutchison has a deadline approaching.

Hutchison said more than a year ago that she intended to resign in the course of running for governor. In July she said that resignation would come by December 2009. In October, she told WBAP’s Mark Davis Show that, with health care legislation still pending, she wasn’t ready to set a date. “I want to stay and fight with every bone in my body against a government takeover of health care,” she said.

In mid-November, she told GOP activists in Galveston, and at least one Republican candidate hoping to succeed her in the Senate, that she would resign after the March 2 primary, win or lose.

Four days before the primary, she was back on WBAP, backing away from the win or lose part, at least as a short term step, but reaffirming that “I am going to leave the Senate. It’s the best thing for Texas for me to leave the Senate, sometime this year before the November elections….I’m going to stay and fight health care. I promised that, so that’s my first commitment, and I will do that.”

Hutchison has yet to grant an interview since her defeat to Gov. Rick Perry.

Say it with me, people: Nobody knows what KBH is going to do. And now sing it with me:

Seriously, that just never gets old.

On a slightly more serious note, I see that KBH has now filed a bill to repeal the health care reform legislation that just passed. Which, I’ve got to think, suggests she plans to stick around a little longer. So ask yourself this question: What is more likely to happen, KBH resigns some time this year, or she serves her full term and then runs for re-election on 2012? Don’t tell me it can’t happen, that’s all I’m saying.

Where KBH and Medina did best, where White did worst

I’ve been poking around the county by county results in the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries to see what might be of interest. Here’s what I’ve found.

– Debra Medina carried three counties: Zavala, Crane, and Carson. There only 16 GOP primary votes cast in Zavala, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that; Crane, with 457 votes total, isn’t much different. What was curious about Carson was that Rick Perry came in third, with a puny 10.31% of the 1,098 votes cast. Anyone have any idea what the deal was in Carson County? Oh, and while Medina pulled a respectable 36.31% in her home county of Wharton, that was only good for second place, behind KBH and her 40.51%. Her best showing in a big county was Tarrant, with 23.28%; Rick Perry won it but did not get a majority there, with 47.57%.

– KBH did her one better and carried four counties: Sterling, Concho, Wilbarger, and Menard. That’ll make for a great trivia question some day. By my count, she did better than Rick Perry in 28 counties, the largest of which was Tom Green – 61,983 voters, but only 9,939 votes cast; she got 45.88%. Her best showing in a large county was in Lubbock, with 39.05%, but Perry still got a majority there, as Medina barely broke 10%. In Harris County, Rick Perry won a majority in every one of the 25 State Rep districts. It’s really hard to overstate how much her performance sucked in this race.

– Bill White failed to win a majority in only 17 counties, of which Maverick had the most votes cast, with 5,470. He won at least a plurality in all of them, the curious case of Montague County having been resolved. His worst showing in a big county was in Lubbock, with 53.26%, though “big” is a relative term here, as more Democratic votes were cast in Maverick and Jim Wells, both of which are about one-fifth the size of Lubbock. (Trivia alert: Star Locke had his best showing in Lubbock County, where he finished third. You’re welcome.) White’s worst showing in a county with five-digit turnout was Webb, where he won 56.82% of the 27,689 votes cast. It was a similar story in some of the other heavily Hispanic counties, such as Cameron (57.64%), Hidalgo (60.01%) and El Paso (58.66%), where Farouk Shami had made some inroads and won almost 29% of the vote. He’s got some room for growth there. In Harris County, White got at least 90% of the vote in every State Rep district except for four – HDs 139, 140, 143, and 145. In HD134, he got an eye-popping 96.13%, which may be the most amazing result I’ve ever seen. Finally, he balanced out those 17 non-majority counties with 19 where he topped that 90% mark, including Harris and neighboring counties Brazoria, Montgomery, and Fort Bend.

I’ll have more precinct and county results in the coming days. Let me know what you think.

Saturday video break: Will KBH stay or will she go?

Surely we all know the answer to that question by now.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is getting some GOP pressure to change her mind about resigning her seat, but a close friend predicted Wednesday that her decision will hinge on whether she can balance her service with what is best for her young children.

Hutchison was not talking Wednesday, the day after losing her GOP primary challenge of Gov. Rick Perry. A spokeswoman, who turned down a request to interview her, said she was in Dallas.

Hutchison’s future was a hot topic in political circles: Her decision will affect the fate of ambitious politicians and come into play as the GOP maps its strategy for gaining more U.S. Senate seats this year. It also could hand a juicy plum to Perry, who would appoint her successor pending a special election.

“My pitch to her would be that … it’s in the best interest of the state and the best interest of the Republican Party and in her best interest to stay in the Senate for a while,” said John Cornyn, Texas’ junior senator and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “My hope would be (that) she would consider staying through the duration of her term, which is through 2012.”

Say it with me, people: Nobody knows what KBH will do. Her most recent smoke signal was that she’d at least stick around till November or so. But we’ve seen this movie before, and we’ve seen how it ends: The date in question arrives, and she kicks the can farther down the road. I guess this time could be different, but I can’t see any reason to expect it to be.

And then there’s the same factor that led me to question all along why she’d want to quit in the first place.

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said Hutchison’s seniority is valuable to Texas, and questioned whether she would want to allow Perry to appoint her successor after their bruising battle.

“The things he did and said about her clearly have stuck in her craw and then … she’s also going to hand him her Senate seat as a plum to give to somebody else?” Sabato said. “It’s mind-boggling. It’s almost masochistic.”

I know I just posted this, but when something works, you go with it:

I don’t think that’s ever going to get old.

Election results: Perry avoids a runoff

So it’s official, the so-called “Battle of the Titans” was a titanic dud, with Rick Perry scraping past the 50% mark to win the GOP nomination for Governor again. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose campaign will someday be used in political science classes as an example of what not to do, barely broke 30% and has conceded the race, though Debra Medina has not, and is still fantasizing about a runoff. KBH endorsed Rick Perry in her concession speech, gritting her teeth the whole time, I’m sure. We’ll have to see what her supporters and Medina’s do now. I for one can’t wait to see the next round of polls.

The post-primary reconciliation

The Republican primary for Governor has been long and nasty. It will likely go to a runoff, where we’ll get five more weeks of concentrated nastiness and attack ads. Any time this kind of high-level primary occurs, people wonder if supporters of the losing candidate or candidates will come home and rally around the nominee in November. As such, you should expect to see more stories like this in the near future.

Regardless of the outcome, the contest has already distinguished itself as the most divisive GOP primary since the party became the dominant force in Texas politics, generating hard feelings that may not be repaired in time for the general election.

“I can assure you that I will not be a financial supporter of Rick Perry, and I can assure you that most of the people I talk to are not going to support him either,” said Fort Worth oilman Dick Moncrief, Hutchison’s financial chairman in North Texas, predicting that Republicans who are “fed up with Perry” may wind up supporting White if Hutchison fails to get the nomination.

“There is absolutely no assurance that Perry can beat White in November,” Moncrief said.


“There will be some people who feel that their candidate has been abused by the other side and may not come back in the general election,” said Steve Hollern, former Tarrant County Republican chairman.

“When you have this harsh a race that goes on between two people, there probably is going to be some hangover or hard feelings,” said Dick Armey, a former U.S. House majority leader from Denton County who is one of Hutchison’s leading Texas supporters.

“My guess is once the primary is settled, most people will get behind the candidate.”


Fort Worth Tea Party activist Deborah TeSelle says she is unsure where she will ultimately place her loyalty if Medina, who was hurt by a gaffe in a radio interview with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, doesn’t survive Tuesday.

“There are reasons why we’re not supporting Gov. Perry,” said TeSelle, who founded the Fort Worth 912 Project, a grassroots conservative organization.

“We’re just going to look to see who’s on the ballot in the fall and consider [which candidate is] most likely to stand up for our constitutional liberties.”

She said she will take a closer look at White but added, “It’s hard to imagine that any Democrat would qualify.” Supporting the yet-to-be-chosen Libertarian nominee might be another possibility, she said.

We Dems lived through this in 2008, and as I repeatedly said then, I do expect most Republicans to return to their fold, as Armey speculates. Affinity matters, and most committed partisans don’t suddenly vote against their own beliefs and values because their feelings were hurt. There’s a lot of time between the primary and November for folks to put such things behind them and remember why they play for one team and not the other.

Having said that, some people do hold on to it. It’s no secret that Bill White and KBH have campaign donors in common, and it’s not unreasonable to think that some of them, like Dick Moncrief, will prefer White as their candidate in the likely event of a Perry victory. I don’t expect many Medina-ites to support a Democrat, but skipping the race and voting for the Libertarian are plausible possibilities. It’s way too early to say right now, and what ultimately happens is dependent on a lot of things, not the least of which are the campaigns that Perry and White run from here on out.

KBH: Did I say I was going to leave the Senate after the primary, win or lose?

Surely you didn’t believe her, did you?

With four days to go before the gubernatorial primary, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison this morning bought herself as many as eight more months in the Senate. Speaking on WBAP’s Mark Davis Show, she said she plans to resign from the Senate
“sometime this year before the November elections.”

That’s a rather significant amendment to her most recent public posture. In December, at a Republican gathering in Galveston, she said she would resign after the primary, win or lose. And she has repeated that privately to GOP donors and supporters.

Technically, the term “after” can encompass two minutes, two months or two years. And it was always safe to assume the Galveston declaration left wiggle room in case of a runoff six weeks after the March 2 primary.

But there’s no denying that the impression Hutchison left – and meant to leave – was that she would resign soon after the primary. Soon as in days or weeks, not seven or eight months.


This marks at least the fifth iteration of Hutchison’s resignation plans. Last summer she said she would resign by the end of November. That turned into, by November she would announce her plans for when she would resign. Then came, she would stay in the Senate long enough to fight Democratic health care reform and cap-and-trade legislation and then resign. And then the December declaration in Galveston.

There’s really only one way to react to this. Well, once you’re finished laughing hysterically because it’s what you’ve been saying all along about how nobody knows what KBH will do. That would be this:

As someone once said, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Last minute poll numbers

Public Policy Polling takes a last look at the gubernatorial primaries.

Debra Medina is fading in the Texas Republican race for Governor, and it continues to look like the contest is headed for a runoff where Rick Perry will be a strong favorite over Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Perry leads with 40% to 31% for Hutchison and 20% for Medina. Compared to PPP’s look at the race two weeks ago Perry has gained a point, Hutchison has gone up three, and Medina’s standing has declined by four.

Unless Perry wins the remaining undecideds by an overwhelming margin and/or peels off more of Medina’s support it looks like he won’t get to the 50% needed for an outright victory next week. But he leads Hutchison 52-35 in a potential runoff thanks in large part to Medina’s supporters, who say Perry is their second choice by a 52-24 margin.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Medina’s standing. Her favorability spread in the previous poll was 40/9 for a +31 net positive. Now she’s at 36/30 for a net positive of just +6. A 25 point drop on your numbers in the span of just two weeks is pretty unusual.

Full crosstabs are here. Phillip thinks Medina has weathered the Glenn Beck/”9/11 truther” flap pretty well, and she is clearly still a factor. I confess, I underestimated her in the race. Bob Moser has a pretty good take on why she’s doing as well as she is.

PPP did not poll the general election. Rasmussen has a new set of numbers on that.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry leading White 47% to 41%. Five percent (5%) of voters prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided. At the beginning of this month, Perry led White 48% to 39%.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Perry for the Republican nomination, now posts a 47% to 38% lead over White. Three weeks ago, she had a 49% to 36% lead. Given this match-up, eight percent (8%) like another candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.

These findings mark little change from January just after White announced his candidacy for the race.

Another GOP hopeful, Tea Party activist Debra Medina, has stumbled following a gaffe on the Glenn Beck show. In the previous survey, she had a three-point advantage over White. Now Medina trails the Democrat by 10 points, 47% to 37%.

It’s still the case that neither Perry nor KBH can break 50% in the polls, even in Rasmussen, which has consistently shown their highest level of support in their results. One normally says that incumbents who don’t poll over 50% – and KBH counts as one for this race – are potentially in electoral danger. Perry still hasn’t received as much as 50% in any poll of the primary, either, but another Rasmussen poll has him pretty close to it.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican Primary voters finds Perry leading Senate Kay Bailey Hutchison 48% to 27%, with Tea Party activist Debra Medina earning 16% of the vote. Nine percent (9%) of Texas GOP voters remain undecided.

At the beginning of the month, Perry lead 44% to Hutchison’s 29% and Medina’s 16%. In September, just after Hutchison traveled statewide to announce her candidacy for governor, she posted a 40% to 38% lead over Perry, but that was the high point of her support which has been declining ever since.

Early voting has already begun in the primary which wraps up on Tuesday. Turnout is often difficult to project for primaries, but among those who say they have already voted, Perry has earned 49% support, while Hutchison and Medina have picked up 24% and 20% respectively.

If the winning candidate fails to get 50% of the vote a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held on April 13.

Burka thinks KBH may concede rather than keep fighting in a runoff if Perry is that close to 50%. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that Al Edwards (48.16% in the 2006 Democratic primary for HD146) and Henry Bonilla (48.60% in the November, 2006 CD23 special election) both lost runoffs after coming that close to winning outright. An incumbent who can’t get 50% is beatable, it’s as simple as that. Perry may well prevail anyway, but there’s no guarantee of it. And let’s not go overboard here – Rasmussen is one poll, making its own set of assumptions. As Come and Take It (an admitted KBH partisan) notes, Ras’ sample was done on one day, while PPP’s was done over the more traditional three days. Let’s see what the voters have to say, then we’ll see what KBH does. Remember, nobody ever knows what KBH will do.

Endorsement watch: Star-Telegram for White

The last of the major dailies to endorse in the Governor’s primaries goes with the crowd.

The best choice for Democrats in the gubernatorial primary becomes more obvious by the day.

Former Houston Mayor Bill White has been the front-runner since the December day he announced he was closing down his U.S. Senate exploratory committee to seek his party’s nomination for governor. In a field of seven candidates, White, 55, stands out as bright, serious and experienced in business and public service.

During six years as mayor of the state’s largest city, White worked to make the Houston area the nation’s leader in job growth while orchestrating a budget reorganization that reduced the city’s unfunded employee pension liabilities. His pragmatic approach to air-quality issues related to natural gas drilling reveals a reasonable balance between public safety and economic development. And his direction of Houston’s response to the migration of Hurricane Katrina refugees from New Orleans followed by those fleeing the threats of Hurricanes Rita and Ike highlighted his logistical deftness and humanitarian understanding.


The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Bill White in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

And also like everyone else, they went with KBH on the Republican side. So the question then becomes, assuming we get the White-Perry race everyone is expecting, will they all then endorse White for November? Assuming nothing terribly unexpected happens in the next few months, my guess is yes, that’s what they will do. Won’t that be something?

Endorsement watch: Chron for White

No surprise here.

Fresh from completing three successful terms as Houston’s mayor, Bill White is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. The Chronicle believes this accomplished attorney, businessman and public administrator is far and away the most qualified candidate to represent the party in seeking to crack the Republican lock on statewide offices.

The only major paper that has not yet endorsed in the Governor’s race – as far as I can tell, anyway – is the Fort Worth Star-Telrgram. In looking around at some other papers today, I see that White also picked up the nod from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

The Houston mayor is the best candidate to come along on the Democratic ticket in a long, long time. He compiled an impressive record as Houston’s mayor. As proof of what voters thought of him and his initiatives, he was re-elected twice with margins of 86 percent and 90 percent. If elected, he promises to work to help Texas Tech achieve tier one status. He promises to improve public schools and reduce the dropout rate and ensure Texans have adequate health care. As Houston’s mayor he helped the area lead the nation’s cities in job growth, with more new jobs added than 16 states combined. He recognizes West Texas has natural resources such as gas and wind that should be developed to support a growing economy. Of the six other Democratic candidates, only businessman Farouk Shami is tracking in the polls and he’s way back. None can produce the serious level of challenge White will bring to his GOP opponent, whomever he or she may be.

Both the Lubbock paper and the Chron also endorsed Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP nomination. Now that the Chron has finally gotten into the game, two days before early voting starts, we’ll see how long it takes them to go through the rest of the races.

Yet another poll

And the newspapers get into the polling game.

The poll found Perry leading with 45 percent support among likely Republican voters, with Hutchison at 29 percent and Medina at 17 percent; 8 percent said they were undecided. The Feb. 2-10 telephone interview survey of 464 likely Republican voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The survey was conducted for the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, the Austin American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Blum & Weprin Associates Inc.

[Pollster Mickey] Blum said normally poll numbers for an incumbent such as Perry will be mirrored in election returns. She said this is an unusual election, though.

“He looks good at this point: A 16-point lead and now the third candidate imploding,” Blum said. “He doesn’t need very much to get to 50 percent. He just needs (Medina’s) people to either stay home or vote for him.”


Looking ahead to the general election, Democrat Bill White had potentially good news in the survey.

White trailed Perry in a general election match-up 43 percent to 37 percent and Hutchison by 42 percent to 34 percent.

Blum said that gives White a solid base despite the fact about two-thirds of 1,508 registered voters surveyed did not know enough about him to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. She said he, essentially, is polling as a generic Democrat.

So this poll is in line with all the others; they did not sample Democratic primary voters, so we can’t compare results there. The main thing that strikes me about all these results is that while White’s numbers vary from the mid 30s to the low 40s – “generic Democrat” numbers, as I’ve said before and as pollster Blum agrees – Perry’s number are in a fairly tight band from the low 40s to the mid 40s. Other than one Rasmussen result from January, he’s never touched 50%. That’s generally bad news for a long-time incumbent, and I don’t think it’s getting nearly enough attention. On a related note, where there used to be a gap between how well Perry did against White and how well KBH did, their results now are basically identical. Either she’s lost her crossover appeal, or she’s appealing to a different but equally sized pool of voters as Perry is. In any event, I think we have a pretty good picture now of where things stand. I can’t wait to see what it will look like when the primaries are all over.

Two more polls

We are suddenly awash in hot polling goodness. First up, a new result from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll:

Gov. Rick Perry is well ahead of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Wharton County GOP chair Debra Medina, who are locked in a statistical tie for second place in a GOP gubernatorial primary that could go to a runoff, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Perry had the support of 45 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters — short of the majority required for an outright win. Hutchison had 21 percent and Medina had 19 percent, a two-percentage-point divide that’s smaller than the poll’s margin of error.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Not much to see here, as this result is well in line with the others, including the fact that the remaining Democratic candidates are non-factors. One wonders if Medina’s recent 9/11 trutherism gaffe will cost her. Perry rounds up some evidence to say that it will. One never knows with the Republican base, that’s all I can say.

In general election matchups, the Republicans trump the Democrats. Perry would beat White, according to the new poll, 44-35. Hutchison would, too, and by the same margin: 43-34 (in our earlier poll, she outperformed Perry in hypothetical general election matchups). Medina and White would tie, 36-36. Shami would lose a hypothetical race to Perry, 48-25; to Hutchison, 49-23; and to Medina, 40-24.

That’s the first general election matchup featuring Farouk Shami I’ve seen. After the latest Rasmussen poll came out, Team Shami circulated a press release claiming that those results meant Bill White couldn’t win in November. I’m thinking they may need to try a different tack now.

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday.

Friedman and Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

Now we have two Lite Guv results, and one for Ag Commish. I think Team Hank needs to be a little concerned about these numbers.

More from the Trib is here, with full crosstabs available at either link. And before I could finish posting about this poll, we get a Research 2000 result, which BOR summarized:

Question: If the election for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote for if the choices were between Bill White, the Democrat, and Rick Perry, the Republican?

All voters: White 42, Perry 46
Independents: White 45, Perry 42

The poll was taken from Feb 8 – Feb 10, and has a 4% MOE. A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone.

Needless to say, that’s a fine result, and given that Perry is well known and White isn’t yet, it suggests a lot more room for growth for the Democrat. Even in the results where White has trailed by more, he’s generally been around “generic Dem” numbers, while Perry and now KBH have consistently been below 50%. Usually, the conventional wisdom in those cases is that means trouble for the incumbent. Make no mistake, Perry’s strategy will be to try to bury White under all kinds of negative attacks, since after nine years in office he’s got nothing else to say to convince people to stick with him. All these results have shown that he will have his work cut out for him, too.

White holds big lead in Dem primary poll

The headline and content of this Trib story is about another strong showing by GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina in a poll, this one by Public Policy Polling, but that’s not what interests me. I’ll get to that in a minute, but this is what caught my eye from the memo:

There is less drama on the Democratic side- Bill White leads Farouk Shami 49-19.

PPP surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters and 423 likely Republican primary voters from February 4th to 7th. The margin of error for the Democratic survey is +/-4.9% and for the Republicans it’s +/-4.8%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.

Far as I know, this is the first publicly released poll that includes Farouk Shami, and as you can see, it suggests he is not competitive with White. All of the poll data is included – text of questions, demographics, and so forth – and nothing in particular stands out as odd to me. The sample is 32% Hispanic, 19% African-American, 46% white, 3% other, which strikes me as reasonable. Shami does best among Hispanics, losing by a 23-39 margin. If there’s one more piece of data I wish this poll had, it would be a geographic breakdown. Does Shami do better in, say, South Texas than elsewhere? We don’t know.

The other data point of interest is that the no-name candidates, especially the ones with Hispanic surnames, barely register. Felix Alvarado got 5%, Alma Aguado 2%, Clement Glenn 1%, and that’s it. Alvarado and Aguado have the potential to force a runoff if they pick up enough stray votes from folks who have no familiarity with the topline candidates, but there’s no indication in this data of that – Alvarado and Aguado combined for 13% of the Hispanic vote, which isn’t enough to cause trouble. If this poll is accurate – and all the standard disclaimers apply – then Dr. Murray’s prediction of White winning comfortably in March looks good. Again, it’s just one data point, so apply salt as needed.

As for the Republican side, Medina’s 24%, which is well within striking distance of KBH’s 28%, certainly looks impressive and would make my repeated predictions of her not beating Ron Paul’s showing in 2008 look foolish. I’ll just note that 51% of respondents were not sure what impression they had of her, which suggests to me that her support is still pretty soft and may fade over time. Or I’m just deluding myself and she’s the story of the year in Texas. Who the hell knows with Republican primary voters? More from Burka, who seems to be mesmerized by Medina for reasons I can’t quite fathom.

UPDATE: BOR has more.

Endorsement watch: Statesman for Bill White

Following their unsurprising recommendation of KBH in the GOP Governor’s primary, the Statesman makes the clear and obvious choice in the Democratic race as well.

As Texas moves through precarious times, it needs leaders from that moderate middle. We believe former Houston Mayor Bill White can be one of those leaders, and we endorse his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

White brings an impressive resume that includes business leadership, a stint as a top official in the Clinton administration’s Energy Department and a successful tenure as mayor of Houston — a city as politically and ethnically diverse as our state.

White also brings a low-key, thoughtful approach that seems like just what Texas needs now. There’s nothing like high-decibel rhetoric to get folks excited around election time. But today’s problems — education, transportation, health care, jobs, a massive projected state budget shortfall, etc. — are best solved by thoughtful deliberation, not overheated rhetoric.

It’s also not the time or place for know-it-all politicians who think they have all the solutions and can single-handedly put them in place.

I feel sure that all of the other papers will go the same way on each race. If we then get the White-Perry matchup that most of us are expecting, I figure White will do well on those endorsements, too. If it does come down to White-KBH, that will be more interesting from this perspective.

Endorsement watch: Statesman for KBH

The first gubernatorial endorsement of the primary season form the major dailies comes from the Statesman, which recommends a vote for KBH over Rick Perry.

Perry beats up on Washington to beat up on the senator. Washington is not an enemy of Texas and could — should — be more of a partner in resolving social, educational and environmental challenges. Grown-ups know that.

Hutchison isn’t perfect, but she’s effective, knows how to work with Democrats and doesn’t just complain about Washington. She’s learned to work effectively for Texans there.

She’s the best choice in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

It’s not at all clear that the voters in that race want or value a grownup for their candidate. Nor is it really clear that KBH still qualifies as one as she’s tried to out-pander Perry with the GOP base. I suppose she’s marginally better than Perry, for whatever that’s worth. And I suppose that’ll be enough for her to get the lion’s share of the endorsements at this stage of the game. We’ll see whether or not it matters.

Another Rasmussen poll in TX-GOV

Following their GOP primary poll, Rasmussen has released another general election matchup; the previous one, from only two weeks ago, is here. For the most part, it’s not any different:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Texas voters finds incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry leading former Houston Mayor Bill White 48% to 39%. Five percent (5%) like some other candidate, and eight percent are undecided.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison still runs best against the Democrat, leading White by 13 points, 49% to 36%. Seven percent (7%) prefer another candidate, while another seven percent (7%) are not sure.
The findings for both these match-ups are little changed from mid-January.

The surprise, as in the new Rasmussen Reports survey of the GOP gubernatorial primary, is the growing strength of Debra Medina, a businesswoman active in the state’s Tea Party movement. Medina now edges White 41% to 38%. Last month, White had a 44% to 38% lead on her. In this contest, six percent (6%) favor some other candidate, but a more sizable 16% are undecided.

I wouldn’t read too much into the Medina/White result. She’s had a couple of good weeks, thanks mostly to the two debates, which gave her the chance to do her thing without taking on much fire. It’s basically a honeymoon bounce, and should any of the other candidates start attacking her, as KBH may need to in order to draw closer to Perry, she’ll probably drop a bit. And let’s be honest, she ain’t gonna be the nominee, so these numbers are for academic interest only. White, meanwhile, is more or less still at “generic Democrat” levels, having just now started to advertise. I’d expect him to get a bit of a post-primary bounce, assuming nothing horrible happens, then he’ll have to deal with whatever comes as the attention turns to the general election race.

As always, it would be nice to get more data points, if only to see if there’s any agreement on the state of this race or not. For all we know, Rasmussen is making assumptions no one else is about the electorate. It would also be nice to see a poll that pits the Republicans against Farouk Shami, for comparison if nothing else. Finally, one wonders if the GOP electorate will take a closer look at KBH’s so far consistently better showings against White than Perry, especially in the event of a runoff. Given how inept the KBH campaign has been, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this, but it could still sway some folks if they think about it in those terms. Mary Benton has more.

Rasmussen’s latest on the GOP primary

I have three things to say about this Rasmussen poll of the GOP Governor’s primary, which shows Rick Perry with 44%, KBH with 29%, and Debra Medina with 16%.

1. People are starting to talk seriously about the possibility of a runoff in this race. Many Democrats I talk to like the idea of Perry and KBH spending a ton more money for another month to beat each other up. There is much to be said for that, to be sure, but a part of me thinks that the longer the story is about Rick versus Kay, the less attention there will be paid to issues that the rest of us care about, and I’m not convinced that’s a net positive for the Democrats. But maybe I’m just overthinking it.

2. I’ve said all along that I do not expect Medina to do any better than Ron Paul’s 4.88% showing in the 2008 Texas Presidential primary. I still think the polls, which have lately shown her consistently above 10%, overstate her strength. I have to admit, though, she’s gotten a lot of good press from her relatively strong showings in the debates, which really isn’t saying all that much when you consider how lousy KBH was and how uneven Perry was in each, and it’s entirely possible that she’s become a viable “not Perry” choice for folks who wouldn’t have considered her before. I’d still bet the under on her, but I’d be a little reluctant to bet my own money at this point.

3. Is anyone going to poll the Democratic primary? We’ve got Dr. Murray’s back of the envelope guess, but other than that, nada. Surely someone has surveyed a few likely voters somewhere. Right?

And with that, I’m off to fire up the TiVo for tonight’s season opener of “Lost”. Burka has more, and my thanks to the Trib for the Rasmussen link.

Again with KBH and term limits

You do have to admire her lack of self-consciousness.

Contending that Gov. Rick Perry has used the state as his personal playground, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison unveiled a government reform plan Monday that includes term limits for Texas governors and restrictions for lobbyists.

In announcing her proposal, Hutchison said Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, had been in office too long.

“If there’s anything Texans don’t like, it’s one person having too much power,” Hutchison said during a news conference at Dallas Love Field. She also made campaign stops in San Antonio, Amarillo and Lubbock. “These are steps in the right direction. I want to put standards in place to assure no future governor will abuse the standards of the office.”

Yes, this is the same KBH who said the following back in 1993:

“I’ve always said that I would serve no more than two full terms. This may be my last term or I could run for one more. But no more after that. I firmly believe in term limitations and I plan to adhere to that,” Hutchison said.

Just on her own schedule, you understand. I mean, let’s not do anything rash here.

KBH first brought this up back in April. Given that one of the other points of her government transparency plan has been making one of Rick Perry’s cronies squeal like a stuck pig, you have to wonder why she hadn’t been hitting this, or at least the non-ironic parts of it, more consistently. Then you remember this is KBH we’re talking about, and it all makes sense. Still, some of what she’s proposing does make sense, and as that Trib link notes, we may see some of it repurposed for the general election, where in the hands of a competent campaigner it may even make some headway.

Is the GOP gubernatorial primary headed for a runoff?

The Trib and Texas Politics both report on that Rasmussen poll, which in addition to giving us our first relevant general election result also shows Debra Medina climbing into double digits, with both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison under 50% in the GOP primary for Governor. Separately, Burka writes about a different poll that showed similar numbers; he also commented on the Rasmussen result. I’ve said before that I doubt Medina will top 5%, and I still stand by that. She has no money to maintain the positive response she apparently got from the debate. It’s still the case that the Ron Paul crowd, for all the noise they generate and attention they get, aren’t that numerous, as seen by his showing in the 2008 Presidential primary in Texas. I certainly could be wrong and I’ll gladly admit it if it turns out that I am, but my tendency is always to bet the under on candidates like her. If I’m right, the odds of a runoff are slim. We’ll see how the next debate goes, as Medina will be allowed to participate, but I remain skeptical. BOR has more.

First poll of TX-GOV

And we have our first general election gubernatorial poll of Texas that has Bill White in it, courtesy of Rasmussen.

Incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry leads White 50% to 40% among likely Texas voters. Four percent (4%) prefer some other candidate, given that match-up, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who runs second to Perry among GOP Primary voters, runs better against White than the incumbent. Hutchison leads the Democrat by 15 points, 52% to 37%. Four percent (4%) like another candidate, and eight percent (8%) aren’t sure whom they’ll vote for.

White leads Debra Medina 44-38, not that it really matters. No crosstabs for non-premium customers, so I can’t give you a critique of their sample. What I can tell you is that the first poll I could find from my 2002 archives had Perry leading Tony Sanchez by a 42-32 margin. That was in July, after Sanchez had spent millions on TV ads. The story referenced a poll from June that had Perry up by 20. All things considered, this early on and with White not having been on TV at all, it’s not too bad. I’d prefer to see Perry under 50, but as this is the first poll out there – I believe R2K will be surveying Texas soon as well – it’s what we’ve got. I have a feeling we’ll see plenty more of these before all is said and done.

Note also that White does better against Perry than he does against Hutchison. I wonder if we’ll start to hear more from the Rick Hardcastle contingent.

That was the debate that was

I’m generally not the debate-watching type, so I managed to find some other way to spend my Thursday evening that did not involve the Perry/Hutchison/Median tete-a-tete-a-tete. Plenty of other people did, however, some because they were paid to do so and some because they derive (sheer perverse) enjoyment from it. Some of those folks include:

Burka, who thought Rick Perry sounded better than he looked.

Bob Moser, who thought Perry sounded awful.

Eileen Smith, who wanted to know “Is this the best we can do?” (Hint: No).

BOR, who liveblogged and provided a statement from Bill White.

PDiddie, who rounded up other coverage, including a statement from Farouk Shami.

George Nasser, who scored it for KBH and said “if this is what we have to look forward to in the Republican primary, political fact-checkers are on the gravy train.” He also did a liveblog.

Team coverage from the Trib: Liveblogging, video, more video, analysis – the headline is “Not exactly a game-changer”, and links to other reports.

You will no doubt be shocked to learn that McBlogger was not impressed by any of the debate participants.

On the Move corrects a claim that Medina and KBH made about TxDOT.

Perry Vs World thought KBH needed to make the most of her limited opportunities to strike back at the frontrunning Perry, but didn’t quite do it.

RickVsKay agrees that “Kay never landed a big upper cut.”

Come and Take It has an open thread on the debate, and wonders if Perry really was as “aloof” as some have said.

My apologies to anyone I missed.

From the “Is she or isn’t she?” files

TV news station reports that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will not resign after the GOP primary, despite what she had said earlier. KBH spokesperson says she’ll still resign, by God. Bloggers note that we’ve heard it all before. Meanwhile, the sun continues its westward journey across the sky.

Republican State Rep says Perry can’t beat Bill White

I wonder how many people will be thinking along the same lines as State Rep. Rick Hardcastle.

When the Legislature does reconvene in 2011, one big question will be who is governor?

“Whether or not we’ll have a new governor, no one will know until March,” Hardcastle said. “If Bill White wins the Democrat primary, whoever wins the Republican primary better get their work boots on. Bill White is the most popular governor of any big city in the nation. Houston is a huge voting block.”

Hardcastle said while he supports both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, he said he is leaning toward Hutchison for a variety of reasons.

“I think Kay can beat Bill White, and I don’t think Rick can beat Bill White,” Hardcastle said. “I think the (Trans Texas) Corridor will kill him against Bill White. I don’t want to see a Democrat governor when we have a Republican majority.”

Link via Come and Take It, who wonders if other State Reps are in the same position. The idea that only Kay can beat Bill isn’t a new one, and with Team Hutchison leaking an internal poll that shows them up two points on Perry, it won’t surprise me at all if you start to hear more of this spoken out loud. Of course, given how lousy a campaign KBH has run against Perry, it’s far from clear to me that she would do any better in the general than he would, though at least she would have the advantage of not being Rick Perry. Anyway, just something to keep an eye on. BOR has more.

Some day our US Attorney will come

As far as I can tell, if Sens. Cornyn and Hutchison have their way, the US Attorney positions in Texas will remain vacant until after the next Republican President is elected.

A classic political stalemate pitting Texas’ Democratic congressional delegation and Obama’s administration against Texas’ pair of Republican senators is partly to blame for the slowed process here. Similar fights in other states, as well as an especially cautious presidential nominating process, have left most of the nation without freshly appointed lead federal prosecutors, who direct law enforcement priorities and approve work on the big projects.

Instead, many of the seats have the same folks there when President George W. Bush was president or, as in Texas, the jobs are filled by someone bridging the gap.

In Houston, that gap stretched to about 14 months and interim U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson last week announced he’s leaving next month for a private sector job. A second interim attorney has to be put in the Houston seat now.

“This is the slowest I’ve ever seen it. There’s an unnecessary fight between members of Congress and the Senate, and it’s very disheartening. There’s a cost to the people of South Texas,” said Tony Canales, a Democrat who is the former Houston-based U.S. attorney and who joined a panel established by the GOP senators to help pick candidates.

Despite the “it’s everybody’s fault” tone of this story, the fact is that according to the Congressional Research Office, when the President is of one party and both of a given state’s Senators are of the other party, “the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party.” The reason for this stalemate is because Cornyn and Hutchison refuse to acknowledge this and instead insist that they get to make the decision. The fact that their ridiculously un-representative screening committee happened to come up with a good candidate (a Republican, of course; that’s the reason for their meddling) is beside the point. It’s not their decision to make. But thanks to their intransigence, and the Senate’s dysfunctional “blue slip” rule, here we are a year into Obama’s Presidency and the only way forward is to give in to their demands, since they’ll never back down. We should at least be clear about why this is.

The gentleman from ESPN

I have two things to say about this.

Former SMU football star and ESPN Analyst Craig James has made news recently regarding his role with his son and former Texas Tech Football Coach Mike Leach. But James could be making news this year in politics, too.

His name is being tossed around as a possible candidate to run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat when she resigns.


James has been making the rounds meeting prominent Texas Republicans and donors raising his political profile, and he said he would not rule out running for the Hutchison seat.

1. I’m pretty sure that the line for KBH successor hopefuls, which surely includes a number of frustrated-to-be-still-stuck-in-the-same-office incumbents currently running for re-election, starts somewhere in front of where Craig James is now standing. And that’s before we consider the possibility, however unlikely, that she will keep her word and resign after the primary, thus allowing a Chosen One to be elevated in the next few months.

2. That said, if he does decide to run at some point and he makes his campaign announcement by declaring “I’m Craig James, bitch!”, I’d have to give serious thought to supporting him.

UPDATE: Burka brings up the SMU football scandals of the 1980s. That’s long enough ago that I don’t think it would be of interest to many people, but it is the sort of thing that James would get asked about.

KBH’s transportation plan

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day seems like an odd time to be rolling out policy initiatives, especially in a campaign that’s been going on for months, so I’ll be brief with this.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Tuesday offered a sweeping plan to overhaul transportation planning in Texas if she is elected governor, but she stopped short of saying how she would pay for it.

Hutchison has cast the final killing off of Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor and the restructuring of his state transportation commission as one of the cornerstones of her campaign to oust him in the March Republican primary.


The senator proposed a major restructuring of how transportation planning is done in Texas, but she said as governor she would propose a select committee on transportation funding. That pushes the major question of how to pay for new roads off until after the election, although Hutchison said she would not support any funding mechanism that is not approved by voters as a local option.

There’s a time for studies and committees and whatnot, and there’s a time to recognize that we already know what we need to do, and that promises to create select committees are just a way to avoid acknowledging that reality.

While [State Sen. John] Carona and other transportation leaders in the Legislature have called for higher gas taxes, she instead said she’d appoint a task force to study how efficient TxDOT uses the money it already gets, and then to evaluate whether news funds are needed.

Carona called that “a very conservative approach and a starting point for discussion of the issues.”

But he said no amount of efficiencies likely to be found in studying TxDOT’s operations will provide the money Texas needs to keep traffic moving in its busiest cities or to keep its massive network of highways and bridges in good repair. “I can’t speak to what her intentions would be post campaign, should she be elected. But it’s clear that the time for studying is past us now. I applaud her desire to look at the efficiency — that’s a job that is never done — but efficiency alone won’t solve this problem. It’s a first step, but by itself it will be no where close to enough.”

Yeah, well, nobody ever won a Republican primary by promising to raise a tax. I must concede that if she did come out in support of Carona’s position, she’d surely be attacked by Rick Perry for it, even though he himself has not ruled out a gas tax increase. No one ever said this would be easy. Anyway, you can read her full plan here or here if you want. Burka, Hank Gilbert, Come and Take It, and the Trib have more.

The debate over Burka

I generally find debates between candidates who are already well known to be tedious, often mechanical affairs. So I’m glad for an event that provides a little interest outside of the usual aspects, which is apparently the case for an upcoming Perry versus Hutchison debate.

Paul Burka, the dean of Texas political writers, won’t be asking questions when the Republican gubernatorial candidates debate next month. He’s been banned.

“I didn’t like the idea of it,” says Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison. “He’s got his mind made up on the race.”

Texas Monthly, where Burka works as executive editor, writer, and a popular blogger, was a sponsor of the debate. When the chief sponsor — KERA-TV in Dallas — told the magazine they were welcome to send any panelist except for Burka, the magazine not only declined to substitute someone but also pulled its name off the January 14 event. Other sponsors — KERA, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, KTVT-TV in Dallas, Univision, and the Texas Association of Broadcasters — remain.

“We were dismayed at what they decided to do, and surprised, given Paul Burka’s involvement in past debates,” says Jake Silverstein, the magazine’s editor. “We stand behind everything he does, and we consider his voice our voice on Texas politics.”

Silverstein tells his side of it here, while Burka himself weighs in here. I think KBH’s campaign overreacted and is being petulant. As commenter Stevie F said on Silverstein’s post, how could Burka write about this race and not say anything about what a hash KBH has made of it? This is bush league. Now I hope one of the moderators brings this up and asks KBH to counter Burka’s criticisms about her campaign. She’s made it an issue, let her defend it. Come and Take It has more.