Hutchison is shown sitting in a living room, or perhaps a hotel suite. She is wearing a white blouse with a dark vest, brown or perhaps purple. A lamp is lit on a desk behind her left shoulder. In the foreground is a built-in segment of a bookcase. A red sofa is in the background off to the left.
The spot opens with Hutchison saying, “I’m going to do everything I can to stop the government takeover of health care.” The screen fades to black. White letters come up, reading, “KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON on fighting government health care while running for governor.” The lighting comes back, the camera refocuses on her, and she continues, “And that’s why I’m staying in the Senate through the primary at risk to my political future. I cannot walk away while this is pending in Congress. Everything about it is going to raise taxes, raises costs, and lowers the quality of health care. And we don’t need a government takeover of health care, not at the federal level, not at the state level, not ever.”
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What can I say? This is what we have been waiting for? Everything about this spot is dreadful. I can’t even give it a positive grade. It is going to lose votes. She has no energy. Her body language radiates defeat. The fighting words have no defiance in them. The subject matter is wrong. The message is wrong. And where was an editor when somebody wrote a script that raised the red herring of a state takeover of health care? That’s from outer space. Anyone who is backing her and sees this spot is going to be not just disappointed, but dismayed. Even horrified.
Perhaps Hutchison is trying to follow the old rule of “hang a lantern on your problem.” But the problem that she is hanging a lantern on is not that she had a difficult time making a decision about leaving the Senate. The real problem is that she has never given a rationale for her candidacy. If she had spent half the energy she devoted to worrying about her resignation on developing a message, she would be in much better shape today. Are we supposed to vote for her for governor because she’s against Obama’s health care program? We already have a governor who is against it. Who is going to be persuaded to vote for Hutchison because she vows to do the job she was elected to do?
Why in the world would Hutchison choose to make her first spot one that focuses on a process issue? Nobody cares about process. People care about what she is going to do for the state. Why is she still talking about a decision that has been made? She can’t undo the past and all the dilly-dallying and undisciplined talk about whether and when she would resign, September, October, November, December, January, never, whenever. It just highlights the lack of self-confidence that comes out in her body language.
I hate to say these things. I have known Kay for a long time. I like her personally, and I think she has been a very good senator for Texas. The attacks of the Perry campaign on her senatorial record, particularly in calling the things she has done for Texas “pork,” are unfair. But that person, that senator, is a creature of Washington—not in the way Perry means it, that her values have been infected by the cooties of the Capitol, but in the sense that she stayed too long. She originally said she would serve two terms, and that is what she should have done: Quit in ‘06 and run for governor, and there is a good chance she would be running for reelection today. She has no feel for Texas politics anymore, or what the Texas Republican party has become—otherwise she would never have undertaken the suicide mission of attacking Perry for refusing the unemployment insurance stimulus funds, when 70+% of Republican primary voters agreed with him. But she is determined to prove that she is as much of a conservative as he is, which is futile. She had months to do her homework on Texas issues, and that time is now gone, and she hasn’t done it. If she gets in a TV debate with Perry on Texas issues, she’d better have EMS on hand because she is going to get slaughtered.
Maybe George Strake, Jr. is right. If this is the best she can do, she ought to quit the race.