March 2, 2010
In Texas, yet another intra-party feud among Republicans fizzled out this evening, as Gov. Rick Perry turned back a challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. With a 20-point margin of victory and an absolute majority that obviates the need for a run-off among the top two candidates, Perry can claim a solid popular endorsement, something few would have expected six months ago. The result may reflect the anti-Washington mood across the nation more than anything else. On the Democratic side, Bill White, mayor of Houston, easily won the primary election and may give Perry a run for his money this fall. See politico.com.
It's a mystery to me why Sen. Hutchison thought she could topple the incumbent governor, or why she would want to give up her privileged Senate seat in exchange for the headaches of running a rambunctious mega-state. Evidently she thought she could position herself as more conservative, criticizing Perry for tax hikes and exploiting his reputation for using strong-arm tactics to hold on to power, but it didn't work. In a Washington Post analysis on Saturday, Dan Balz explained why her campaigned floundered, in spite of endorsements from Dick Cheney, former President George H.W. Bush, and all the major Texas newspapers. (Perry's main high-profile endorsement was from Sarah Palin!) In an era of sound bites, getting called "Kay Bailout" for her support of the bank / financial sector rescue really stung. The economic situation in Texas is not as severe as in most other states, and that muffled any resentment toward Perry, who cruised to victory.
Does this mean that moderate "RINOs" like Perry are making a comeback? Probably not. It would be nice to draw some meaning from this race as it applies to the Republican Party nationwide, but it appears that the decisive factors were local and personal in nature. Now the big question is, What is in Sen. Hutchison's future?