Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More on White and the battle for governor

Still digesting yesterday's news and reading the tea leaves and (insert your own favorite cliche'). For now I'll excerpt what I find and emphasize the most interesting. First, this HouChron story doesn't tell us much new beyond sandwiches served at Sunday afternoon's meeting between Tom Schieffer and Bill White.

Several sources close to White said the decision to switch races was made at the Sunday meeting with Schieffer and his adviser, Lyndon Olson, who was a Clinton administration ambassador to Sweden. Houston lawyer Scott Atlas also was at the meeting. White insisted he still is in the listening stage.

“Right now, people want folks who are competent and shoot straight, don't engage in cronyism and get things done,” he said. “I've had a lot of people bending my ear about what I ought to do next, and I ought to listen to them.”

More on Scott Atlas if you need to know it. Harvey Kronberg has more of the juicy grist (is that an oxymoron?) in this from QR:

In the words of Democratic advisor Harold Cook, “You better get your popcorn and go to the bathroom 'cuz you don’t want to miss a minute of this.” ...

In a first sort-through, the big damage may well be to Kay Bailey Hutchison. While we never expected big Democratic crossover vote into the Republican March primary, an effort to stop Farouk Shami and Kinky Friedman with an “A” team candidate becomes more important. (No disrespect to Hank Gilbert who has run a very active, issue oriented campaign)

An exciting Democratic primary cannot be good for the Republican gubernatorial challenger.

Harvey's spot on here. I'll go further, however: there's not a lot of difference between Hutchison and White once you take the party label off. Establishment, conservative, calm, even bland. The rumors you heard months ago about her funneling clues to him about her plans suggests that the two have something more than just shared Houston governmental policy interests. Before I digress ...

On the other hand, Governor Perry’s life just got a little more complicated. Even Hutchison supporters acknowledge that he has driven the narrative of the campaign and out-maneuvered his challenger at every turn. Hutchison went from twenty points (up) at the end of last year to 12 down in recent polls. Although the primary is still a hundred days away, the betting line has been consistently swinging toward the incumbent.

More on that from this anonymous blogging GOP consultant (via Kuffner)...

White seems to be the best shot at the governor’s mansion, and that’s trouble for Rick Perry’s campaign. Slipping by with 39% of the vote in 2006, Perry will fare poorly in a head-to-head with White. Moderates in Houston will mostly back White, who is widely popular there. The trick for White will be spreading the Houston support throughout the rest of the state.

On the R’s side, primary voters will be faced with a pretty clear choice: nominate a candidate (Perry) who will struggle to beat a widely popular Houston mayor, or a candidate (Hutchison) whose statewide popularity is unmatched in recent Texas political history. No matter what happens, Perry will have to shift to the center. He’s been driving hard right for a long time, though… it’s possible that he may never be able to win over moderates at this point.

Back to Harvey:

Bill White in the primary and the general undercuts one of the anchors upon which Team Perry has been counting. Private polling indicates that in a two-way with Hutchison, Perry will dominate in the greater Houston area, no doubt because of his high visibility and impressive performance during two hurricanes.

Only White can trump Perry’s long shadow in voter-rich Houston. More importantly, White is transitioning directly from mayor to gubernatorial candidate which means his name ID is still high and his fundraising should not be impaired.

Houston/Harris County/Houston-Galveston metro or whatever other title you want to give "Greater Houston" represents something on the order of 20% of the entire statewide Democratic vote tally; maybe a bit less for the GOP (they're stronger in suburban and rural Texas, naturally). A swing of millions of votes from the Republican to the Democrat at the top of the ticket lifts the other down-ballot boats. More on that from HK just down from here.

Now let's not be naïve. Perry already has the opposition research on White. Expect to hear about under-funded public pensions and who knows what else in Houston. But that is pretty far down the road. White has plenty of time to put the book together on Perry and Hutchison … and now he can go back to his contributor list and hit them up for five-figure donations rather than the paltry $2,300 limit for a federal race.

Probably more like six figures in White's case.

Perry still holds the statewide name ID and charisma advantage over White should he win the primary. Consultant Dave Carney, pollster Mike Baselice and media maestro David Weeks have plenty of practice at this statewide election stuff and they start with a candidate the camera loves. However, Perry is considered a more polarizing figure (whose) strengths work best in a primary rather than a general election.

It’s no secret that some Republican House members worry that (Perry leading a) November ticket against a strong Democrat could well cost the GOP more seats going into a redistricting year. ...

And there's the most valuable bit: with all of this media attention on White, postponing a decision for the next two weeks spreads the fire wider. Everybody (D & R) who has thought about running for something in 2010 has to assess what it means for their prospects. In state Senate and House districts, in the courthouses (especially in Harris County) and at the statewide level, thousands of aspiring politicos woke up early this morning and are Twittering and texting even as I type this.

With White in the race, it may also become easier to flesh out the rest of the ticket. Eliott Shapleigh had been rumored to consider a statewide race, but perhaps Lt. Governor might be more enticing. Although we are only teasing a long shot, a spot on the Legislative Redistricting Board in 2011 would give him some serious leverage with his former colleagues should he somehow find himself as the presiding officer.

Kirk Watson may be reconsidering a statewide run, but his public reaction gave no clue. Barbara Radnofsky has been toiling the field in a quest for AG for over a year.

Sure, Kinky Friedman is running for Guv and Marc Katz says he is running for Lite Guv. But frankly, that is just another way of saying one is selling baloney and the other is selling pastrami.

Top-shelf New York Deli stuff, Harvey.

Republicans still have the incumbency advantage and are more battle-tested. And although Texas is still a center-right state, demographics are changing and Texas could turn purple sooner than anyone expects.

Meanwhile, the entire field in the greater Harris County area just got shook up. Republican-targeted Democrat Kristi Thibaut is in a little more secure position today than she was yesterday. Similarly, Democrat-targeted Republicans Dwayne Bohac and Ken Legler are on shakier ground than they were just a few hours ago.

Thibaut, Valinda Bolton, Joe Heflin, Diana Maldonado, and those other Texas House Democrats elected two years and four years ago that closed in on the majority are likely feeling very encouraged. Bohac, Legler, turncoat Chuck Hobson and half a dozen other Republicans across the state ought to be very concerned. TeaBagger mania just can't stay stoked all the way to next November; the fury is already waning and the Republicans will fragment into a back-biting morass by this time next year.

Finally, this from Bradley Olson about White and how he speaks to the evangelicals:

Accepting a plaque from the U.S. Pastor Council, a group of largely conservative Houston-area ministers whose executive director recently discussed plans to persuade voters not to choose City Controller Annise Parker because of her sexual orientation, White repeatedly emphasized tolerance and love and the separation of church and state.

Although the mayor has publicly stated that he hopes the race will not devolve into attacks dealing with race or sexual orientation, he did not mention the mayor's race at all in his remarks, although the subtext was there in almost every sentence.

White, who has proudly touted his Sunday-School-teacher bona fides even in the most unusual situations (a fact not lost on the pastor group, members of which heaped praise upon him), cited numerous references of scripture in urging those present not "to judge" as they jump into the political sphere.

Just as Jesus urged followers in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6) not to "pray in public to be seen," so too should faithful Christians avoid judging others and expressing their own "public righteousness," White said.

How many Republican votes all across Texas do you think that's worth?

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