Friday, February 26, 2010

Governor -- Texas -- Republican Primary

I described next Tuesday's Democratic primary here. Now for the Republicans:

The three candidates are:

Governor Rick Perry, 59. He is the longest-serving governor in Texas history, having taken office in 2000, when George W. Bush resigned, after having been elected president. Before that, Perry had won elections for the legislature, agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor. He started his political career as a Democrat.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, 66. She has served in the U.S. Senate since 1993, when she won a special election to succeed Lloyd Bentsen, who had resigned from the Senate to join Bill Clinton's Cabinet. Trained as a lawyer, she worked in television, served in the state legislature, and worked in the banking business. Hutchison plans to resign her Senate seat after the primary, regardless of the outcome.

Debra Medina, 47. Originally trained as a nurse, she later founded a company providing medical billing services. This is Medina's first campaign for public office.

Perry is well ahead in the polls. Hutchison had apparently hoped that voters would perceive Perry as too far right, and as having been in office too long. But, even though Hutchison has been politically successful in Texas, that state's Republican primary electorate doesn't seem likely to prefer a moderate candidate to a right-winger. That would seem to especially be the case now, when the Tea Party movement is in the ascendant in the Republican Party, and Perry has strongly identified himself with that faction.

On Tuesday of this week, Chris Cillizza in The Fix blog on the website of The Washington Post, analyzed what has gone wrong with Hutchison's campaign. Then, today, The Post published this article about the primary, by Dan Balz.

If that newspaper is surprised by Hutchison's apparent failure, it might be because The Post tends to reflect the Company-town perspective of Washington. They're more familiar with a long-time senator, such as Hutchison, than with a governor, no matter how prominent. Writers working inside the Beltway may well be slow to realize that the voters in a conservative state won't react well to the notion of someone from Washington coming home to take over the reins in their state capital.

Medina's presence in the race might deprive Perry of an overall majority. Texas is one of the southern states that requires a runoff under those circumstances; a runoff would be held on April 13. Medina, who is even more of a Tea-Partier than Perry, was originally considered to be a major surprise factor in the primary. But her candidacy began losing altitude when she declined to dismiss conspiracy theories about American involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Polls for the most likely general-election matchup show Perry leading former Houston Mayor Bill White, the probable Democratic nominee. But it's only a single-digit lead and, if you believe the so-called "50% rule" which Nate Silver describes and criticizes in this 538 post, White might have a chance. While leading, Perry polls less than 50% in all surveys, which, according to that theory, is a death knell for an incumbent.

Between Bush and Perry, Republicans have held on to the governor's office for 16 consecutive years. That's longer than the combined tenure of all Republican governors in Texas history, prior to Bush's 1994 victory over his Democratic predecessor Ann Richards. Democrats hope to break that streak this year, but, while that's not impossible, it still looks like an uphill battle.

No comments: