The Hill: Texas a Toss-up
Thu May 6, 2010 12:26 pm

Here's what opinion columnist Brent Budowsky had to say earlier this week about the Texas governor's race. Keep in mind that Budowsky was an aide to Senator Lloyd Bentsen and later worked for the House Democratic leadership.

Disclaimer: I'll cite the article, I'll even publish selections from the article, but that doesn't mean I believe it.

Budowsky writes:

--In the political futures market, I’ll take the points and bet Democrat Bill White is elected the next governor of Texas. White’s challenge to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry (R) makes Texas a big state to watch in 2010.

Yeah, people said the same thing about Hutchison's race against Perry, and look what happened

--Bill White has been slowly but steadily closing the gap. According to realclearpolitics.com, White has moved from nine points behind in January to four behind in April. Polls will swing both ways, but the more Perry moves to the right, and the better-known White becomes, the more White gains.

Perry has done nothing but move to the right in the last year, and as far as I can tell, it has worked to his benefit. Granted, a general election electorate may react differently, but the political climate here is much more favorable to the right than the left.

--Pundits overstate the power of the Tea Party right and miss the message of the voters. Voters are worried about jobs and financial security, schools for their kids, sound management of their money and prevention of great blobs of oil poisoning our shores.

What is the evidence that the power of the Tea Party right is understated? They seem to be riding pretty high right now, especially after the House runoffs in Texas. Yes, voters are worried about jobs, but the main thing they are is angry, and what they are angry about, in this state, is Obama and the Democrats. Perry is set up perfectly to exploit this.

--With discontent toward politics-as-usual, White is the no-nonsense guy who takes care of business at home. With discontent toward partisanship from both parties, White runs as an independent Democrat who was reelected twice as mayor of Houston with major support from independents and Republicans, winning two reelection landslides with 91 percent and 86 percent of the vote.

Perry is not going to let White run as an "independent Democrat." He is going to define him as a "liberal trian lawyer" who supports Obama. How is White going to counter that?

--With voters turned off by the showboating of modern politics, White is the anti-hero, the non-politician, the un-partisan, the no-nonsense man who has run a business, met a payroll and managed a crisis. He gets things done without the incompetence or scandal that is a regular feature in the news.

How can White present himself as a non-politician and a non-partisan? He ran for mayor three times, he was a high-ranking official in Clinton's Department of Energy, he worked for Democratic congressman Bob Krueger. No one is going to believe that White isn't a partisan Democrat.

--With Texas gaining congressional seats after the census, in large measure because of the surging Hispanic population, White will gain from Hispanic turnout as it becomes clear that Republicans would use gerrymandering to rip off Hispanic voters.

Sure, the Hispanic population is surging. But Hispanic voting isn't. In the last mayor's race, Hispanic turnout in Houston barrio neighborhoods was single-digit. Democrats keep waiting for the Hispanic vote to coalesce, but there is no indication of that happening.

--When Katrina struck, Houston came to the aid of the victims. Mayor White carried out a generous mission with flawless execution, for which he was given the Profile in Courage award.

That's nice, but Perry has three hurricanes under his belt, Katrina, Rita, and Ike, and he got a lot of credit for accepting Katrina refugees.

--In 2009 the most successful Republicans were not elected using a Rick Perry style of partisan politics and rightist rhetoric. Quite the contrary. In New Jersey and Virginia, Republicans were elected governor campaigning as moderates, problem-solvers and job-creators. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) rarely mentioned Republicans and always spoke of his independence.

The Republicans did run as moderates. And the reason why they ran as moderates is that they were running in states where Democrats had been winning, and they needed to appear moderate. Democrats haven't won a statewide race in Texas since 1994. As I said in the beginning, there is no compulsion for Perry to run from the center.

I rate Texas a toss-up. The glamour guy of the Tea Party right wins the big cover story, but the no-nonsense man is making a very strong run.

How can Texas be a toss-up? Perry holds a modest lead in the polls, and he has a 59% approval rating in a Rasmussen survey. You can't beat an entrenched incumbent with a 59% approval rating unless he makes a major blunder. If you want the points, OK, I'll give them to you.

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