Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Texas Governor Race

Race of the Day

Texas Governor

October 6, 2010
27 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Republican Governor Rick Perry should win reelection next month, and should do so without an incredible amount of vote count drama. After all, Texas is a Republican state, where not a single Democrat has won any sort of statewide election since 1994, and this is shaping up to be a big GOP year, especially in conservative territory. Still though, Perry's reelection campaign is maybe testing the limits of comfortable GOP dominance in the Lone Star State. The nation's longest serving Governor, Perry first took office in late 2000 after George W. Bush was elected President and has since been elected twice in his own right. Texas is not used to seeing Governors stick around Austin for a very long time, and it seems as if Perry fatigue has begun to kick in, even among some Republicans.

Way back in early March, Perry captured the GOP nomination for a third full term with 51% of the vote, avoiding the need for a runoff. That was a fortunate result for the incumbent, who many believed could be forced into a runoff against his main opponent, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Months earlier, polls had shown Hutchison ahead of Perry, but the incumbent rebounded by running to his opponent's right, taking advantage of her standing as a Congressional insider and faring better among conservatives. Perry raised many shackles on the left at times by talking about his opposition to federal government policies in a way that some say sounded as if he might be advocating secession. Hutchison had pledged to resign as a U.S. Senator at one point in order to return to Texas to campaign full time for Governor. That would have allowed Perry to select her replacement, while also setting up a special election for that job this year. Ultimately though, Hutchson stayed put, even after losing the primary, stating her vote in the Senate was too important to the state.

While the veteran Senator Hutchison lost to Perry by over twenty points, a surprising aspect of the Republican primary was the showing of conservative political activist Debra Medina who nearly took 19 percent of the vote. She benefited from the support of many Tea Party sympathizers who were upset at the political scene in both Washington and Austin, among both parties. Without her in the race, Perry might have garnered even more conservative primary votes, but she also did have the effect of splitting the anti-incumbent vote. While Hutchison graciously conceded her at times bitter foe after the primary vote, Medina has been far more circumspect about supporting the party's nominee.

The Republicans were lucky to avoid a runoff as a result of the primary,but still had the potential to have taken on some damage as a result of the contest. The easy winner of the Democrat primary for Governor was former Houston Mayor Bill White. He had switched gears from preparing to run for the U.S. Senate in the potential 2010 special election and emerged as the party's favorite to run for Governor. Having served six years as the Mayor of the state's largest city, White had achieved success in garnering votes from Republicans as well as Democrats, and many Democrats were high on his chances, believing that an energized turnout among the state's sizable number of Hispanics and African-Americans could provide a winning coalition.

Some general election polls between Perry and White have looked somewhat close, with the incumbent struggling to get over the 50 percent hump. The little known Libertarian nominee might be poised to get the votes of some usual GOP voters who might have issues with Perry's record as Governor. Many have believed that Hutchison would have been in better shape for a general election, but the Democrats complete and utter failure in winning Texas races in several years has to throw some weight behind the theory that any Lone Star Republican nominee is going to be the favorite. Back in 2002, polls showed Perry's race for Governor, as well as an open U.S. Senate contest as pretty competitive in the final days, but when Election Day arrived, Republicans managed to win comfortably. In 2006, the Democrat nominee against Perry received under 30 percent of the vote, but that was an unorthodox four way contest featuring a Republican running as an Independent, as well as a liberal leaning comedic singer figure, who had backed Republicans before as well.

Polls out in the last couple of days put Perry's advantage at both five and 14 points. That seems to be quite a difference, but the truth is probably somewhere right in the middle, and the incumbent will probably win by around 9-10 points. It's just too much of a Republican state, and there is not a ton of evidence that Hispanic and other minority voters are clamoring to make a statement in opposing Perry. White's record as Mayor of a large urban city might prove to be too liberal to the state's rural, small town, and suburban voters.

It will be a huge upset if Rick Perry is denied another four years in office, and he will go on to continue his status as the longest serving Governor of Texas, but if Perry truly had Presidential ambitions, it might have been a politically strategic mistake to have sought another term.

Perry campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 25 R, 1 I
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 31 R, 1 I