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Rick Perry Versus the World

A Nasty Primary Challenge?

by Daniel Muniz

Republicans were elated when the GOP overran the Democratic stronghold of Texas. Not only has Texas produced George W. Bush as president, the GOP firmly established itself as the dominant party in the Lone Star State for years to come.

However, quite a few brows were raised when incumbent Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson generated speculation that she no longer wished to serve in Washington, but rather have the opportunity to run for governor. Incumbent governor Rick Perry has no intention of stepping down and will definitely run for re-election thus ensuring a costly and divisive intra-party fight for the Texas governor’s mansion.

Observing this drama from the sidelines is Evan from the web site, Rick Perry Versus the World. Below is an interview with Evan.

National Summary would like to thank you for taking time for this interview.
As an observer and commentator of the potential race between the incumbent Governor Rick Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, there are certain Republicans that feel outraged of a possible primary challenge. For instance, many party members see such a challenge as a waste of party resources and feel that if this primary race does take place, it is nothing more than cannibalism that could eventually divide and weaken the party.

Q. Do you think that such a costly primary race could ultimately weaken the party?

A. In the short-term, maybe. In the long-term, no.

It’s possible that the primary could be so nasty and divisive that the nominee would limp wounded into the general (election) and be beaten by a Democrat. It’s not likely though. To capitalize on such a situation, the Democrats would need a credible candidate. At this point, it’s tough to see who that would be.

But in the long-term, the Texas GOP has a very healthy future. Given demographic trends and party ID, Texas Republicans stand poised to dominate over the next two decades. Even if lightning strikes and Democrats win the governor’s mansion, the party’s future is still bright.

Q. After the Republicans established firm control of Texas, do you believe that it was inevitable for a popular Republican to challenge a sitting Republican governor?

A. The GOP hasn’t had a truly competitive high-profile primary…well, ever. In 1990, there was a gubernatorial primary that was supposed to be close…but wasn’t. In 1994 and 1998, we had competitive AG races…not exactly the top of the ticket.

But that was a different party; a party still in ascent. Now the party holds all statewide offices and the Texas House and Senate. Clearly the intra-party struggles will begin to have more of an effect on the state’s politics. Texas may never become Kansas — where the conservative and moderate GOPers fight each other as much as the Democrats — but it’s likely to trend a little bit in that direction.

Q. Do you see any parallels with this possible primary challenge to the 2004 Arlen Spector and Pat Toomey race in Pennsylvania (that is, a battle of ideologies)?

A. KBH is certainly more moderate than Perry, both stylistically and on issues. But I think that the Toomey-Specter comparison is ill-fitting.

Q. In Texas, it wasn’t very long ago that you could literally stick the entire Republican Party into a phone booth. Texas was a solid Democratic state and in fact, quite a number of current and former Republican state legislators were once Democrats or had worked for Democrats. Do you believe it is baseless charge for Kay Bailey Hutchinson to claim that Rick Perry was once a Democrat, therefore not a “real” Republican?

A. Well, plenty of the folks who will be voting in this year’s Republican primary have voted in a Democratic primary before.

I don’t think Hutchison will focus much on Perry’s former partisanship. Her case will be that Perry has failed to lead and get things done, particularly school finance.

Q. And on the subject of who are “real” Republicans, what sort of impact do you see State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn having on the primary if Kay Bailey Hutchinson enters the race?

A. For the purposes of this question, Strayhorn is two things: ambitious and an enemy of Rick Perry. If Hutchison runs, I think Strayhorn doesn’t run, but she continues to criticize Perry as much as possible.

To that degree, she serves to raise Perry’s negatives without affecting Hutchison’s positives. If Hutchison doesn’t run, I think it’s more likely than not that Strayhorn runs.

Q. You seemed to have picked quite a provocative name for your web site, Rick Perry versus the World. What sort of reaction have you gotten from people visiting your web site?

A. I haven’t gotten much comment on the name. When I named the blog, it was just an impulsive decision, because there were many rumors of folks challenging Perry. It seemed like everyone felt like Perry was vulnerable and was lining up for a challenge.

As I wrote back when I started the blog in December 04, I felt that Perry was much less vulnerable than he appeared to be. I don’t see that anything has fundamentally changed since.

Q. And your web site name does seem to strike a chord with a lot of Republicans. Certain people feel that if Kay Bailey Hutchinson does gather momentum for a primary challenge, that the Party establishment and its “movers and shakers” will abandon Rick Perry. Do you think it is possible for long time Perry supporters to jump ship?

A. I don’t think that’s a likely scenario.

Q. Between Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who has done a better job in cultivating a relationship with the media?

A. Over the past few years it has been apparent that there is little love lost between the state’s journalists and Rick Perry.

Q. Potential Democratic candidates are John Sharp, Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell, and Jim Turner. Who do you think has the most to gain if there is a messy Republican primary?

A. I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough about the Democratic side to be able to forecast.

Q. And the governor’s race would not be complete without mentioning Kinky Friedman. What sort of impact do you think that Kinky Friedman is going to have?

A. It’s too early to say. If he wants folks to take him seriously, he needs to take the “store” off of his site. But you know, I’ve seen a few bumper stickers around my neighborhood. There’s even a bar a few blocks from me with a “Run Kinky Run” banner.

I wouldn’t count Kinky out yet, though he has a large mountain to climb before he’ll be taken seriously.

Evan
Rick Perry Versus the World