Current speculation is sooner rather than later. The reason: The longer she stays, the greater the chances that she will have to cast votes on controversial issues. It took Rick Perry about a nanosecond after she voted for the bailout bill to come out against it. The Perry camp has made no secret that its strategy in the Republican primary, with its ultraconservative electorate, will be to inform voters of Hutchison’s record in an effort to portray her as not a true conservative. They also are counting on claiming credit for the state’s economy outpacing the national economy. Perry has made economic growth a centerpiece of his governorship. I have not talked to a single Republican outside the Perry circle who thinks that he can defeat her. The Republican consultants I have talked to think she will slaughter him. I think Hutchison will beat him, but Perry’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are looking pretty good right now. Running for office is what he does best. (Yes, I know, I’ve said that a thousand times. At least.) There continue to be stories that Hutchison has been/will be offered the chancellorship at UT as a graceful exit from political life. The race is essentially where it was in 2002 and 2006: If she runs, she wins; the best hope for Perry is that he can get her out of the race. The more things change, the more they stay the same.