Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hutchison Chases Texas Right

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, above, in August announcing her candidacy to unseat Gov. Rick Perry, who is seen below with Texas Rangers in October.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison may have won the backing of former Vice President Dick Cheney in her race for Texas governor, a key endorsement for a candidate seeking conservative support. But her drive to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Perry remains an uphill battle.

Ms. Hutchison, one of the Lone Star State's most popular politicians, was expected to mount a formidable challenge to Mr. Perry in one of the long-anticipated GOP primary battles of next year's elections. The GOP winner is an overwhelming favorite to be the next governor in this Republican state.

"We Westerners know the difference between a real talker and the real deal," Mr. Cheney said before a small crowd of about 100 Hutchison supporters and journalists Tuesday evening. "Kay Bailey Hutchison is the real deal."

Perry is more conservative than Hutchison; he even alluded to Texas seceding from the Union. But the Senator is an old Washington pal of Cheney.

But Mr. Perry has built a large lead in polls with less than four months to go to the March 2 primary. In part, he has scored points using what's shaping up as a popular strategy for many candidates during this election cycle, with rhetoric portraying Ms. Hutchison as a Washington insider out of touch with down-home Texans. He also has accused her of waffling on a pledge to resign from her Senate seat, which she had initially said she would do in October or November.

"It really does appear that it is slipping away for her," said Calvin Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The Hutchison campaign hopes the backing of Mr. Cheney, who before being elected vice president was chief executive of Halliburton Co., then based in Dallas, will deepen the shallow conservative backing that has been long viewed as her principal weakness. But supporters of Mr. Perry, who has the backing of conservative groups and such governors as Haley Barbour of Mississippi, have tried to use the Cheney endorsement as evidence Ms. Hutchison is out of touch with Texas voters. "The Washington establishment usually sticks together," Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said.

That is almost an insult to Cheney, the right's darling.

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