This was the topic of a breakfast discussion yesterday, in which I participated. One of our group, a former legislator who served with Perry in the House, said it happened it 2002. Kay Bailey Hutchison was giving indications that she planned to run for governor against Perry, who had inherited the governorship when Bush became president. He was not at all popular at the time, and Hutchison was extremely popular. Always shrewd when it came to politics, Perry realized that his best, and perhaps only, chance to beat her was to move hard to the right. And that’s what he did. He won the support of the far right, Hutchison didn’t run, and the rest is history. That was the general trend of the discussion. This does not fit my recollection of events. For one thing, the buzz about Hutchison taking on Perry never got past the talking stage. She lost her nerve. I think the transformation of Perry occurred much earlier, when he switched parties in 1989, ran for agriculture commissioner in 1990, and defeated Jim Hightower. The story I remember is that Phil Gramm told him that, as a party switcher, he had to move hard to the right and never budge. (Gramm, of course, had switched parties as well.) The point is that Perry moved right, not out of conviction, but out of political necessity. He followed Gramm’s advice to the letter.
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