This was the day when Perry and Strayhorn unveiled their TV spots, to thunderous snores. No doubt the race will heat up, but the first round didn’t move the thermometer.
Perry focused on border security. The video shows him walking high above the Rio Grande, with accompanied by a law enforcement type and ends with a closeup of the governor looking very chief-executive-ish. Some quotes:
* “[Perry] If Washington won’t protect our borders, Texas will….”
* “[voice over] Governor Rick Perry ordered the Texas National Guard to provide border security six months before the president requested it….”
* “[Perry]We’re increasing patrols, using technology to stop terrorists from crossing our border….”
The script was artfully crafted to avoid any mention of illegal immigration, which could have alienated his support among Hispanics. Yet the images alone were enough to play to the large and vocal anti-immigration constituency in his Republican base. I thought that the decision to start the media campaign with the border was revealing. It has been obvious for some time that 55% to 65% of the electorate do not want Rick Perry as their governor. It has also been obvious for some time that if the anti-Perry vote continues to be split fairly evenly among his three challengers, Perry can win re-election with the Republican base vote alone, there being no run-off. The spot seemed to me to be a tacit admission that Perry has little hope of broadening his appeal and will have to win by playing to the rabid right. Silly assertions that terrorists are crossing the border are not going to broaden his appeal.
One other thing about this spot puzzled me. It’s one thing to say that “Washington” isn’t protecting our borders. “Washington” could be interpreted as Congress, which has failed to pass an immigration bill. It’s quite another thing to brag that he acted six months before President Bush did. Who thought that was smart? There never was any love lost between Bush and Perry, and there isn’t going to be any now.
As for the Strayhorn spot, I did a lot of channel surfing, but I never saw it. I did see what a Strayhorn strategist described as “outtakes” from the spot, which are posted on her campaign Web site. Its primary purpose was to remind voters that, whatever her married name(s) might be, she’s that gal who calls herself “one tough grandma. This was followed by the generic “I believe we need a governor for all Texans, not to divide us from one another and play politics, but to put principles above politics.” Finally, she mentioned two issues: Cut property taxes and fix our schools. Pardon me for asking, but didn’t Perry already do that?
Not an auspicious beginning.