Monday, May 18, 2009

Hutchison-Perry Governor's Office Race Shows The GOP's Struggle For Identity

The Hutchison-Perry governor's office race is viewed as a test of whether the GOP's social-conservative wing will shape the party's future. DMN: March 2010 Texas primary could define GOP future:
"You've got a very hard case to make that Kay Bailey Hutchison wouldn't be the stronger [November 2010] general election candidate," said Charles Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report. "To me, she projects moderation, which is great – except in a Republican primary."

Perry has the clear advantage in the March primary, Cook said. Recent GOP primaries have averaged around 650,000 voters, and religious conservatives have dominated the outcome.

Hutchison [is not popular with religious social-conservatives because she] supports embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights, though she backs restrictions on abortion such as a ban on federal funding for organizations that perform abortion and a ban on late-term procedures.
Perry has been making a focused effort to appeal to the religious social-conservatives with his high-profile support for a "Choose Life" license plate motto, high-profile criticism of "Washington" and Obama's economic stimulus legislation, refusal of federal stimulus money for jobless benefits, conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh to move to Texas, teaching only "abstinence" sex education in Texas schools, teaching creation in public schools by appointing a young earth (earth age only 6,000 years) creationist as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education and preventing stem cell research in Texas.

Hutchison likely will not win the GOP primary next March unless she can convince independents go to their polling place, ask for the Republican primary election ballot (rather than the Democratic Primary ballot) and mark that ballot for Hutchison. "You can't win a major race without the independents, and independents are leaving the Republican Party." says Galen, a GOP political consultant, as quoted in the DMN article.

So, "the big question" for the March 2010 primary is, can Hutchison motivate enough independents to get out the vote for her? And, if they don't vote for Hutchison, will they just stay home or will they vote for one of the Democratic primary candidates for governor? All that likely depends on whether a strong Democratic candidate emerges for the governor's race. (It is not clear that "strong" Democrat has yet announce for the governor's race.) Even nine months out from when primary early voting starts in February 2010 there seems to be little doubt that Republican conservatives will be motivated enough to not only get out and vote for Perry, but also work to help get out the vote for him.

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