Is this good or bad? This is a guy who left office with a 19% approval rating. The report comes from the NBC affiliate for the Metroplex: The battle for conservative credibility in the GOP race for governor just got interesting. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, an outspoken critic of all things liberal, is supporting Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the gubernatorial primary against sitting governor Rick Perry. Hutchison campaign aides confirm the news, and add that Cheney will host a fundraiser for Hutchison next month in Houston. The Perry campaign hasn’t responded yet. It would not be surprising to find that Karl Rove had a hand in this somewhere. The Bushies are definitely in the Hutchison camp, and there is no love lost between them and the Perry camp. The tension (according to Perry team members whom I interviewed on this subject last year) dates all the way back to Perry’s race for lieutenant governor in 1998, when Rove insisted that Perry stick with a positive message even while he was being pounded by John Sharp. Meanwhile, in the view of the Perry camp, Rove was trying to turn out Hispanic Democrats who would vote for Bush, even though that meant they were likely to switch back to the D column to vote for Sharp. The Perry team decided that they had to fight back, Rove or no Rove, and they went rogue, going after Sharp hard. It worked. The only thing that makes me wonder about this once-upon-a-time story is that Rove and Bush needed Perry to win. If Bush were elected president, his resignation would hand the governorship to a Democrat, and that possibility was damaging to the Bush campaign. Maybe, in those days, Rove was good enough to find just enough votes so that Bush would carry El Paso County (the battleground) and Perry would win anyway. If that animosity weren’t enough, after Bush was named the winner in December 2000, Perry was insistent that the president-elect vacate the governor’s mansion so that Perry could move in, notwithstanding that Bush wanted to stay a day or two longer before leaving for Washington. I heard that firsthand from the Bushies at the time. Regarding Cheney: I have been skeptical that endorsements are going to make a lot of difference in this race. Both candidates are well known and their views are well known. I can’t picture that conservatives are suddenly going to switch allegiances because of endorsements. Cheney is a big name, to be sure, and I think he will bring in money, but votes? I doubt it. In this regard, Cheney is no different from the talk show hosts and activists whose endorsements Perry has rolled out. Perry has spent years courting the Republican base. They know who he is. Hutchison has already rolled out Dick Armey. Now it’s Cheney. I don’t think it is useful for the Hutchison campaign to try to pick a fight over conservative credibility that she isn’t going to win. She would be better advised to find other ways to differentiate herself from Perry, such as how she would govern the state differently.
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