• Rick Perry, 54, Austin
He’s one of the best campaigners Texas has ever seen, but that’s all that can be said. Beyond the inherent powers of the office, the assets that earn a governor extra clout are an uplifting vision for the future, broad-based popular support, and the respect of the political community—and they just aren’t there.
• David Dewhurst, 59, Austin
He’s building up the assets Perry lacks, and he’s a worthy student of policy, but he’s the Mack Brown of the Capitol: He won’t be regarded as a powerhouse until he can win one against his biggest rival, Tom (Oklahoma) Craddick.
• James Leininger, 60, San Antonio
He’s still a big Republican contributor (at least $800,000 in 2004) and an activist for school vouchers and other conservative causes, but the San Antonio physician isn’t nearly as prominent in GOP politics as he used to be.
• The Secretary of State
In previous administrations, this appointee was usually someone the governor regarded as a future star who merited the spotlight. But compare Ron Kirk, Tony Garza, and Alberto Gonzales with Gwyn Shea, Geoff Connor, and Roger Williams, and it’s clear that that’s no longer the case.
• Tom DeLay, 57, Sugar Land
The U.S. House majority leader isn’t throwing his weight around the Capitol these days because he’s gotten everything he wants out of Austin—a new congressional redistricting map and eight more Republicans in Congress—except a clean bill of health from district attorney Ronnie Earle.