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Thinking about Kinky

Now that the holiday weekend is over, it’s time to start catching up on some stuff that I drafted for “later”. We’ll start with this PerryVsWorld analysis of how Kinky Friedman might affect the Governor’s race in 2006. Short answer: It’s hard to say, as Friedman has potential appeal to both disaffected Republicans and pessimistic Democrats.

One thing he mentions, which I think can’t be emphasized enough:

Judging from the coverage so far, Friedman is likely to receive plenty of free media. Heck, he announced at the Alamo on cable TV. Press coverage will likely treat Friedman as a novelty — soft but “he has no chance” coverage — until a poll comes out showing Friedman with reasonable support, say above 10%. However, if Kinky can show himself to be gaining traction in the polls, it seems to me that he’s a candidate that the fourth estate is likely to love: independent, claiming fiscal conservatism but socially leaning left.

Do not underestimate the amount of free media that Kinky Friedman can and will generate for himself. He’s a celebrity, an “outsider”, and a quote machine, and that’s an irresistable combination to the press. He’ll also have access to venues that are normally off-limits to regular politicians – think Larry King, the Tonight Show, and Wacky Morning DJ shows across the state (he’s already appeared at least twice on the Dean & Rog show here in Houston, and they’ve played the sycophant role for him perfectly). This is the sort of coverage he’ll get for stuff that normally bores even the most hardcore political junkies:

Trailed by a crew from Country Music Television and a scribe from The New Yorker, iconic 2006 Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman sauntered into town May 23 to unveil his Guy Juke-designed campaign logo and his new media consultant, Bill Hillsman.

Unveiling a logo and introducing a media consultant – man, that’s heavy duty. Those of us who don’t need the presence of a Kinky Friedman to care about the 2006 elections are going to be utterly sick of this sort of thing by the time it’s all over.

I admit I’ve been worried about Kinky’s campaign for a long time now. The scenario that PerryVsWorld speculates about – basically, that Friedman splits the anti-Perry vote – is a nightmare for the Democrats, who will need all of those votes to win. But I think that overall, it’s Rick Perry who has more to worry about. Unpredictability is almost always a negative factor for favorites; for sure, Perry would prefer a straight-up two-candidate race. More importantly, Kinky’s MO so far has been to bash Perry. I believe he’ll continue to do that throughout the race, since Perry is both a convenient target and the most visible symbol of why Kinky feels he needs to run in the first place. This puts him under attack from two fronts, and also gives Chris Bell the opportunity to step back and talk more about what he wants to do, since he’ll know the Case Against Rick Perry will get made regardless.

(Yes, I’m assuming that Perry is the GOP nominee here. I’m making that assumption because I believe it’s the key to Kinky’s campaign. Yeah, he can make the same arguments if KBH runs instead, but it’ll be a lot harder to claim that she’s responsible for the mess in Austin, especially since she’d have won the nomination on a message of change. If he can’t run against the incumbent, it won’t shock me if Kinky decides not to run at all.)

I don’t know any more than PerryVsWorld does what effect Kinky Friedman’s campaign will ultimately have. I think, or at least I’d like to think, that he’ll draw more from Perry than from Bell – there’s not much hope from my perspective otherwise. The first three-way poll numbers will be very interesting, that’s for sure.

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10 Comments

  1. William Hughes says:

    “He’ll also have access to venues that are normally off-limits to regular politicians – think Larry King, the Tonight Show, and Wacky Morning DJ shows across the state (he’s already appeared at least twice on the Dean & Rog show here in Houston, and they’ve played the sycophant role for him perfectly).”

    Not to mention Imus In the Morning, which is both heard on the radio and seen on TV nationwide, since he is friend of Don Imus. Of course, given Imus’ ability to pick winning candidates, Kinky may not want to appear on his show until after the election. 🙂

  2. Oh, Sarah! says:

    First of all, it’s highly unlikely that Kinky will be on the ballot. Texas has the strictest primary screen-out laws in the nation.

    Secondly, the Democratic nominee almost certainly will not be Chris Bell.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Kinky DOES make the ballot and that Bell IS the nominee. In that case, I think rather than take votes away from anyone, Kinky creates new voters who would not otherwise participate in the process.

  3. Mark says:

    Is this post tongue-in-cheek? I find it hard to believe you think Friedman’s candidacy worth analyzing, even in terms of a spoiler role.

    This clown is not Ralph Nader; his effect will be more like that of Pat Paulsen.

  4. Tim says:

    Hard to say. I’m specifically not voting in a primary in order to get Kinky on the ballot, regardless of whether or not I’ll ultimately vote for them. I think Texas is the only state in the union which has the ridiculous law which assumes that if you support a candidate in the primary, you don’t have the right to help an independent get on the ballot.

    Until that law changes, I’m never voting in a Texas primary again.

  5. Tim says:

    Is this post tongue-in-cheek? I find it hard to believe you think Friedman’s candidacy worth analyzing, even in terms of a spoiler role.

  6. Tim says:

    Is this post tongue-in-cheek? I find it hard to believe you think Friedman’s candidacy worth analyzing, even in terms of a spoiler role.

    What I meant to say was…didn’t people dismiss Jesse Ventura that way?

  7. Patrick says:

    Kinky is much closer to Jesse Ventura than Pat Paulsen, but in the end he is more likely to play the “spoiler role” ala Perot or Nader. On the way home from the Hill Country, I saw a couple of “Kinky for Governor – Why the Hell Not” bumper stickers and I think unless he really steps in it he’ll get 8-10% of the vote.

  8. JL says:

    Only by continued performances of a “spoiler role” is this country going to move beyond our shallow two-party system. Texas’s a good start for some action. I applaud any independent candidate who’s willing to represent an alternative.

  9. Patrick says:

    JL, I’m not so sure I totally agree with your premise. In elections the spoiler role is ususally someone who takes votes away from the center, i.e. a “pox on both your houses” candidate. That in turn seems to give greater power to the extreme wings of the parties – if you are losing the middle you have to double up on the turnout of your base. I guess in that way spoiler candidates are driving the election but it’s most certainly not going in the direction they want it to go.

    But it demonstrates the power of the center. Bill Clinton’s triangulation strategy valued going after voters in the political center and it worked. Most high profile politically charged Supreme Court cases are not decided by 9 justices but by 2 – O’Connor and Kennedy. One could argue that they are the most powerful 2 people in the country.

    And if any action in the last 20 years demonstrated the power of the center, it was the negotiation of the Senate to a compromise on judicial appointments. The entrenched wings of the parties weren’t going to budge but a more sensible bipartisan group of Senators remembered the collegial history of the Senate and worked out a more sensible deal.

    The pols in the center, unburdened by strict ideology, are the ones that cooperate across party lines and are working to move forward. It ain’t perfect, but IMO it’s better than the zero sum game that has recently been the rule.

  10. AH says:

    The people “for the job” can’t do the job so why not give someone different a try? That is one of the priciples that this country was founded on. Besides, if the 2 party system continues on like this it will eventually implode or end up serving everything our founding fathers were opposed to, in my humble opinion.