Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sen. Hutchison's Road Not Taken

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is, or at least was, a political powerhouse in Texas, and a year ago political analysts were salivating at the thought of covering the pending battle between the Senator and incumbent Governor Rick Perry, who announced that he would seek an unprecedented third full term in the governor's mansion. Republican insiders in Austin did not like opining about the race, with many not wanting to tip their hands, not wanting to back the loser in what appeared to be a dead heat.

Now, less than a month before the primary election, the Hutchison campaign is in shambles, trailing the Governor by 15 points. The only question at this point is whether a third candidate, Debra Medina, who has never held state wide office, will garner enough votes to force a runoff to determine the nominee.

What has happened to Sen. Hutchison, who was planning for this race even before pundits were floating her name as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2008? She has run an uninspiring campaign that has given Republicans no reason to turn away from a fairly popular governor in a state that has fared better than most in the nationwide recession. In short, she has given Texas Republicans no compelling reason to support her candidacy.

That is not to say that Gov. Perry did not have weaknesses that could have been, but were not, exploited. His pandering to the far right at tea party appearances at which he floated the possibility of secession embarrassed the state, not to mention sensible conservatives, and he has shown too much of a tendency toward secretiveness and a political approach that rewards friends arguably at the expense of what would be better for the state. However, attacking these areas would have risked her being seen as a moderate, and that is evidently a result that her consultants decided that she could not bear. Political handlers tend to focus on whether a candidate will run to the right, left, or center of their party. In so doing, they tend to focus on demographics, not on where the best arguments can be made.

Indeed, Mr. Perry's weaknesses could be criticized on conservative grounds. Granted, Sen. Hutchison's record of senatorial moderation would make that a difficult case to make. However, it was the best chance that she had. Taking down a popular incumbent -- frequently a loser's errand in any event -- usually requires an aggressive campaign that takes some risks. Sen. Hutchison has taken the safe path of an honorable loser.

UPDATE: I corrected Ms. Medina's name in response to a comment. I apologize for the error.


Anonymous Jillian Howard said...

Nice post, but I do have one issue-- Kay Bailey Hutchison has relentlessly attacked Perry on the issues you mention for well over a year now. She has put money behind radio and television ads for months now. She is not all that honorable. Just inept and hypocritical.

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

It's DEBRA Medina, not Terry. And she is the one to watch! Listen to her today on Glenn Beck's radio program.

6:52 AM  

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