That’s what she said on CNN yesterday. It’s true, not that it matters any more.
Hutchison had two great chances to beat Perry, in 2002 and again in 2006–both times when Perry was weak. But she hesitated in 02 and let herself get snookered in 06 by believing Perry’s “promise” that she could be governor in 2010. There’s a line from an old song that applies here: “Afraid and shy, I let my chance go by.” When she did decide to run, it was too late. Her constituency, Republican women and moderates generally, was gone. Perry had radicalized them with blistering attacks on Hutchison’s support of the TARP bailout and her use of earmarks. The amazing thing is that Hutchison didn’t fight back; she never defended her vote, never said that the bailout saved the financial system, and that she would always do the right thing, not just the popular thing. Hutchison was right on the bailout, and Perry was wrong, but Perry understood the national mood and Hutchison didn’t. The governor’s race was over when she voted for the bailout. The Perry people told me as much.
One of Hutchison’s mistakes, in my opinion, was to freeze her longtime consultant, Bryan Eppstein, out of her team. She brought in consultants from South Carolina who didn’t know Texas and produced some of the worst TV ads ever seen in this state. The rollout of the campaign was catastrophic–no crowds and a speaker who couldn’t pronounce the name of her home town. It famously came out as “La Markey.” My interface with the campaign was an attempt to get a schedule of events that I could attend. This was in July, a lunch meeting at The Tavern in Austin. It was fall, and many phone calls, before I heard back that there was an event at a school in San Antonio.
The campaign team she assembled seemed paralyzed. They were absorbed for months over the issue of when she was going to resign her seat. She couldn’t make up her mind, and then turned her dillydallying into one of the worst TV spots ever.
Hutchison was a great senator for Texas. No one since LBJ did as much for the state. Phil Gramm, Bush 41, Bush 43 – they did nothing for their state. Hutchison was extremely popular with local officials and chambers of commerce for the projects she supported in their cities. Perry dissed them all as “earmarks.” It was unfair, but it was the climate of the times. Perry turned her strength into a weakness.
I have always considered Kay to be a friend–we’re both from Galveston County, and we both worked for former State Representative Ed J. Harris of Galveston–and I was not thrilled about being in the position of having to write about the disaster that was the Hutchison campaign. I hope that her defeat in the governor’s race doesn’t obscure how much she did for Texas. I suppose it is possible that she will surface on some vice-presidential short list. It won’t be Rick Perry’s–for two reasons. You can figure out what they are.
We will miss Hutchison in the United States Senate. She will be the last senator of her breed that Texas sends to the Senate, someone who puts the interests of her state ahead of ideology.