Friday, December 05, 2008

The kinder, gentler Kay Bailey (with Karl Rove's help)

With the announcement of the forming of her gubernatorial exploratory committee this week, Kay Bailey Hutchison throws down the gauntlet at the feet of incumbent Republican Rick Perry, and the Clash of the Cheerleaders is engaged.

The governor's office promptly responded with a new nickname for the senator: "Kay Bailout".

And in her press release was revealed the positioning that the senator is going to be using against her Aggie rival:

"There's too much bitterness, too much anger, too little trust, too little consensus and too much infighting. And the tone comes from the top. Texans are looking for leadership and results."

And with the news that Karl Rove is quietly advising the Hutchison campaign, we can expect to see a lot of matronly outreach to the moderate middling factions of the Texas electorate.

Rove -- a man who wants to rehabilitate both the Republican brand as well as his own hard-earned reputation as a miserable scumbag -- believes that the GOP is losing, among the many other reasons, because of the "bitterness" and "anger" demonstrated by its base toward Hispanics. He knows that Republicans need to recapture women's votes and those of the squishy center and is likely prepared to sacrifice some of the frothing base to do so. That means, if she takes his advice, that Kay is going to have to straddle a fine line; she'll have to throw a little red meat with her right hand while she extends the other kidgloved one to the left. She has to attack Perry on matters of competence and temperance without abandoning the rabid Texas conservative wedge issues of illegal immigration, voter ID and lower property taxes.

(Yes, those are all wedge issues, Matt. The majority of the Texas electorate isn't as riled up about Ill Eagles and the rest as those who vote in the GOP primary.)

Anyway, while they talk amongst themselves about which way they will go, the drama is going to play out in the fight between Perry and Hutchison for the GOP nomination for governor. Winner take all -- including a future chance at the presidency in 2016, without a doubt.

If Perry can summon enough outrage at Washington and "liberals" -- a direction that has never failed the Republican Party of Texas for the last generation -- then he might be able to pull off the upset in the primary. Yes, the incumbent governor is most certainly the underdog against Hutchison. The senator, for her part, is going to try a little Barack Obama Lite to defeat him. Naturally that's a strategy contingent on the continuing popularity of the president-elect over the next two years.

But assuming Hutchison wins and faces off against Bill White for the newly-rebuilt governor's mansion in 2010, it will be hard to find any differences between the two parties' standard-bearers. Which to me would suggest a third or even fourth option on the ballot, as in 2006.

"If 'ifs and 'buts' were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas." It seems possible that we could have Christmas every day for the next year. Frankly, that diet makes me a little nauseous.

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