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March 12th, 2006:

The uphill battle

The headline on today’s Chron piece – “Beating Perry uphill battle” – elicits a certain “Tell me something I didn’t already know” feeling. It’s a decent enough overview for those who haven’t been paying much attention, but for the rest of us, well, it doesn’t really tell us much that we didn’t already know. One point I want to make:

But the three-way challenge also is working in Perry’s favor because Friedman, Strayhorn and Bell may split the anti-Perry vote. And Perry has consistently led his opponents in public opinion polls.

I don’t doubt that the three-way challenge will split the anti-Perry vote to some extent. It seems like an oversight to me to write this, however, without acknowledging that Perry’s level of support is pretty damn soft for a Republican in this state – thirty-six percent in last month’s DMN poll – and that this is the result of Strayhorn (who would have likely gotten around 30% in a GOP primary against Perry, based on the limited polling we had prior to her jump) and Friedman peeling voters away from him. Even the GOP-friendly Rasmussen poll, which had Perry at a high of 46% pre-Strayhorn, has him at 40% as of February. Perry just isn’t that popular, as SurveyUSA has tracked month by month. Note those deep troughs in July and August, during the most recent Special Session Palooza. Look for a similar dip in April and May, even if a school finance bill is ultimately passed.

(If you want to know what a popular governor’s numbers looks like, compare Perry’s tracking chart to that of Janet Napolitano. Note also that Napolitano is a Democrat in a red state. Just FYI.)

All in all, it’s easy to see why the Chris Bell campaign believes it has a straightforward path to winning. If the likes of Bob Scarborough and JR Molina can do better than 40% in a year where George Bush topped the ticket, it’s not hard to imagine Bell doing the same in 2006, when that may well be sufficient. The key is holding onto the base, which is going to involve convincing enough people that the math can work. The analysis by Perry pollster Mike Baselice may be self-serving, but he’s right about the Dems not having much slack. Strayhorn is certainly going to push the idea that only she can beat Perry, and if enough Dems believe that, it’ll be come self-fulfilling. Friedman’s cult of personality campaign presents a different issue, one with no easy answer.

We’ll know more after the special session. If the Lege beats the June deadline and passes a school finance bill that meets constitutional muster, a huge amount of heat will be taken off Rick Perry. If that happens, I expect to see him start to poll over 50% again, and from there it’s likely to be all over. If August rolls around and nobody knows when or if the schools will be open, he’s in deep trouble. I have no idea what will happen. None at all.

Finally, on a tangential note, I have to give credit to Kinky Friedman for demonstrating once again that he can get his name in the papers while doing pretty much anything, no matter how trivial. That’s a superpower that almost any political candidate would love to have. Link via Michael Croft.

Koufax voting closes today

You have mere hours left to make your voices heard in the voting for the 2005 Koufax Awards. I’d like to thank everyone who cast a ballot for me in the Best Local and State Blogs category. I must say, getting a shoutout from Lydia Cornell (see comment here) was an unexpected highlight. Take that, Bluegrass Report!

Anyway, the full list of nomination posts is at Wampum on the left sidebar. As always, if the spirit moves you, please consider making a donation to these fine folks for their efforts on this annual project. Thank you.

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, the voting deadline has been extended to midnight tonight.

Schlitterbahn Galveston almost ready to roll

One more item from the Things That Happened While I Was Out Of Town file: The Chron had a story about the new Schlitterbahn water park in Galveston, which was slated to open yesterday.

Jeff Henry speaks of the $34 million Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark as if it is his toy — which in one sense it is.

”I started out in this business when I was 11,” said Henry, Schlitterbahn’s director of water park development. ”I’m 51 now. This is like a piece of art to me. I’ve never had so much fun in my whole life.”

Soon, Henry will find out if water-loving visitors from Texas and beyond share his enthusiasm when the state’s third Schlitterbahn location opens.

After delays caused by a fire and Hurricane Rita, Henry said he now has a ”target date” of March 11. The landscaping is finished, and the amusements are being tested. But he and others with Schlitterbahn Waterparks say they have yet to set an opening date.

“March 11 is my target — that’s all I’m going to say,” Henry said Wednesday. “I sure hope to make it. It’s progressing very, very well.”

The summer-season opening date, April 22, is much more concrete, Henry said. Potential visitors should check the theme park’s Web site — www.schlitterbahn.com — for updates.

”There’s still work to do,” Henry said last week. ”We’ve been riding the rides the last few days. This is going to be a great park.”

As this KHOU story from Friday shows, they were’t quite on track to make it, but according to the Schlitterbahn Galveston website, a part of the park is opening today, with the rest of it slated for the April 22 date mentioned above. I can’t wait to see what it looks like.

Jack and Tom, BFFs

I don’t honestly know why I hadn’t linked to the Vanity Fair article on Jack Abramoff (PDF) before now. Heck of a picture there on the first page, isn’t it? I imagine it may find its way into a campaign mailer or two sometime between now and November 7.

I’m amused that DeLay has jumped on a quote in the piece as proof that he never engaged in actual lawbreaking with Abramoff. Naturally, he didn’t bring up the subject of his personal relationship with the man. You may recall that prior to the primary, DeLay said the following in a letter to his constituents:

“The reality is, Jack Abramoff and I were not close personal friends. I met with him only occasionally, in fact less frequently than numerous others who brought issues before Congress.”

According to Abramoff, this is what these non-close non-personal non-friends talked about on those oh so rare occasions when they did meet up:

“We would sit and talk about the Bible,” he said. “We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf.”

By an amazing coincidence, those are exactly the topics of conversation I have with my non-close non-personal non-friends. I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall for those talks about the Bible. I’m sure their interpretations of the Commandments against stealing and lying would have been most illuminating.