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Carole and Kay and Rick

Both Clay Robison and Cragg Hines speculate about the next governor’s race in 2006 and which of Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kay Bailey Hutchison will be more likely to challenge Rick Perry at that time. Robison does a good job of summarizing the contradiction that is Strayhorn. On the one hand, it’s fun to watch her slap around the feckless Perry for his lack of budget leadership, his disingenuousness about “no new taxes”, and his misplaced priorities. On the other hand, Strayhorn is a shameless opportunist who sandbagged us all on the budget last year, stupidly tried to pin the blame for the deficit on a “spending party” by the Legislature (when you tot up reasons for the recently-passed bill that clips her wings, you can start right there), and didn’t really bring anything to the table herself when it counted.

I just don’t know what to make of Strayhorn. I was as vocal as anyone in criticizing her ever-changing budget projections lasy year, and I stand by that. Yet if she really does want to take on Perry in 2006, she may find that it makes more sense for her to do so as a Democrat rather than a Republican, a scenario Greg has been rooting for. If she does make the switch, I’ll certainly support her, but I’ll feel more than a little unclean for doing so. Yeah, I know, a party that doesn’t welcome new members, especially converts, is a party doomed to eternal irrelevance. I’m just saying it’ll take some time before she gets on my Christmas card list, you know?

Is Perry really worried about Strayhorn? Rob does the math and thinks he ought to be. I’m not fully convinced by this, though. Perry had a well-financed opponent who flung a lot of mud at him and his record, and as such I’d expect he managed to convince a few people to not vote for him. Strayhorn ran against a nobody (quick, do you remember his name?) and surely got all but the true yellow-dog vote. The question is really “How many of those Republicans who voted for both Strayhorn and Perry will choose her instead of him?”, and it’s a question I can’t answer.

Well, Cragg Hines suggests some of them would, but the person Perry really ought to worry about is KB Hutchison. For sure, Kay Bailey has led a charmed political life since moving to Washington, having not had a credible opponent since 1994 and being generally well-liked. She’d have no baggage to carry along with her aura of goodness, and that’s got to be scary to Rick Perry.

A lot can happen between now and 2006. Perry still has to deliver on school finance reform, and I think that will be a bigger determinant of his ultimate fate than redistricting or the 2003 budget will be. If the economy continues to stumble, the 2005 budget process may make us all nostalgic for this summer, and if so Perry will really be in the soup, but if things turn around Perry can use the fatter receipts to give something to everyone and claim credit for all of it. It’s fun to speculate about the season, but we’re not even in spring training yet.

(Greg has a take on this as well.)

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