Texas Tea: Lessons in Wave Management From an Incumbent

Mar 2, 2010 8:07am

By Rick Klein 2010 would be no big deal if everyone could just run against Washington. While you’re in the reconciling mood, figure out how the second-longest serving governor in the nation … and the longest-serving in state history … and George W. Bush’s lieutenant governor … serving in a nation-wide economic downtown … is set to have a big day on Tuesday. It was long billed as one of the year’s marquee political matchups. Yet the main question going into the day is whether Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, will need another round of voting to defeat Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Perry has up-ended some key assumptions — about the dangers of incumbency; the local-vs.-national dynamics of a race; the power of endorsements, from the establishment of either party; and what Tea Party anger can mean for entrenched politicians — even with a tea partier also in the GOP primary for Texas governor. If Perry wins, he’ll have done so by making the race a choice, not a referendum (Democrats take note); blasting away at bailouts and spending in Washington (hello, Republicans); and channeling grass-roots anger that’s permeating virtually every race in every state (hello, world) without letting it subsume his candidacy. All that and Perry still may not be Republicans’ strongest candidate in the general election: Former Houston mayor Bill White, the likely Democratic nominee, is going to be harder to paint as an insider, particularly from inside the governor’s mansion. Democrats may want to digest the lessons as well, particularly with one of their most vulnerable senators — Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln — now facing a serious primary herself, and another potentially vulnerable one — New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand — dodging a challenge from Harold Ford, but not yet out of the primary woods. In Texas, voting runs from 8 am ET through 8 pm ET. And winners in primaries need a majority vote in Texas, so coming in under 50 percent means a run-off between the top two vote-getters, and another six weeks of campaigning. “The Republican primary for governor has been caustic and personal. A six-week runoff campaign, if it comes to that, could get even worse,” Todd J. Gilman writes in The Dallas Morning News. “So it won't be easy for the eventual winner to put Humpty Dumpty together again after today's votes are cast. And even if Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison can set aside the savage attacks and divisiveness, Democrats are lying in wait armed with all the mud they've slung at each other for more than a year.”  “The only question in the final days is whether Perry can crush Hutchison's dreams without a runoff,” Peggy Fikac and R.G. Ratcliffe write for the Houston Chronicle. “The contest between Hutchison and Perry — political rivals since they first won statewide office as Republicans in 1990 — never turned into the grand battle political junkies had anticipated. Perry rode a wave of anti-Washington sentiment, while Hutchison had trouble getting beyond questions of when or whether she would resign her Senate seat.” Drinking the tea, and letting it work its way through your system: “Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry has embraced the cause of state sovereignty, suggested his famously independent state could secede from the union, deemed the president a socialist and, last month in Houston, happily stood by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s side to receive her endorsement,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports. “If [Bob] McDonnell, [Chris] Christie and [Scott] Brown harnessed Tea Party energy while mostly sticking to safe scripts, Perry has become the first prominent Republican to make the movement’s fears about a Washington leviathan central to his candidacy.” More assumptions dashed: “Ms. Hutchison has outspent Mr. Perry by $2 million on a largely negative campaign accusing him of doing favors for companies that have hired his former aides,” James C. McKinley Jr. writes in The New York Times. “Mr. Perry has consistently tarred Ms. Hutchison with the decision by Congress to spend $787 billion on stimulating the economy and to bail out banks, even though she voted against the stimulus bill and the second half of the bank bailout.” “With national conservative commentators railing against the Obama administration night and day on the radio and cable television, Perry's anti-Washington message has had more wind at its back than Hutchison's warnings about the looming Texas budget shortfall,” Jason Embry and Corrie MacLaggan write in the Austin American-Statesman. “We all know the old line that all politics is local,” The Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater said on ABC’s “Top Line” Monday. “This year it seems so much that politics is really national — nationalizing a race like this.” Speaking of marquee matchups … liberal groups are rushing to endorse and raise money for Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, D-Ark., in his primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., with speed and excitement we haven’t seen this side of Ned Lamont. But what’s good for health care reform isn’t necessarily what’s good for Democratic Party prospects this fall. (In case you forgot; the White House didn’t.) Watersheds: “Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter announced Monday that he will challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the state's May primary, a decision touted by liberal Democrats as a watershed moment in attempts to demonstrate their displeasure with the way the party has conducted itself over the past year,” Chris Cillizza writes in The Washington Post. “For Lincoln, Halter's candidacy further complicates a reelection bid imperiled by the ongoing fight over reforming the health-care system. Lincoln's opposition to including the ‘public option’ in a Senate bill inflamed liberals, and her vote for final passage of that legislation stoked anger among Republicans.” “Washington is broken,” Halter said in announcing his candidacy. (Sound familiar?)  It’s the liberal groups vs. the Democratic establishment, up to and including the White House: “The race is likely to become a proxy battle for the larger debate within the Democratic Party between progressives who believe sticking to core values is the best way to win office and the self-styled pragmatists who argue that they must adopt more conservative positions when running in traditionally more conservative states,” Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports. “A host of progressive groups — including Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Moveon.org, Democracy for America and Daily Kos — are launching a fundraising drive on Halter's behalf. The goal has been set for $500,000 to be raised in one week.” (It took seven hours.) “After Halter's announcement, the AFL-CIO's political committee voted to endorse him, according to a union official. Three unions had already pledged $3 million to help Halter's campaign,” per the AP’s Andrew DeMillo. Maybe better for Democratic messaging that they’re the same day … “Political junkies should mark their calendars for May 18. Democratic Senate primaries in Arkansas and Pennsylvania that day will test the widely held and poll-backed perception that this is a terrible year for incumbents — especially Democrats,” Jill Lawrence writes for Politics Daily. In Pennsylvania, tood news for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: “Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter leads Democratic primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak 53 – 29 percent and has pushed ahead of Republican Pat Toomey 49 – 42 percent in a general election matchup, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, up from a 44 – 44 percent tie December 18. In a battle of the unknowns, Toomey leads Sestak 39 – 36 percent with 24 percent undecided.” But in New York, a no-go: “I believe New Yorkers are hungry for a new direction in government. Our elected officials have spent too much time this past year supporting a national partisan political agenda — and not enough time looking out for their own constituents,” former Rep. Harold Ford writes in a New York Times op-ed. “I believe raising these issues over the last two months has forced Democrats and Republicans alike to do better. And I will continue holding their feet to the fire. But I will not do so as a candidate for senator from New York.” “I reached this decision only in the last few days — as I considered what a primary campaign, even with the victory I saw as fully achievable, would have done to the Democratic Party,” Ford added. Not necessarily a clear shot for Gillibrand: “Ford’s departure signals, according to two top New York Democrats, just how serious Mortimer B. Zuckerman is about a Senate race,” Politico’s Ben Smith reports. “Zuckerman, who parlayed a fortune in real estate into a mixed bag of media holdings and a prominent role in American Jewish life, has been encouraged by the reaction to the trial balloon he floated a few weeks ago in The New York Times, friends told POLITICO. And he seems to have shut down the former Tennessee Congressman’s attempt to enter New York politics before it ever got off the ground.” Also in New York — a will-he-go: “Gov. David A. Paterson personally directed two state employees to contact the woman who had accused his close aide of assaulting her, according to two people with direct knowledge of the governor’s actions,” Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum write in The New York Times. “Mr. Paterson instructed his press secretary, Marissa Shorenstein, to ask the woman to publicly describe the episode as nonviolent, according to a third person, who was briefed on the matter. That description would contradict the woman’s accounts to the police and in court. Mr. Paterson also enlisted another state employee, Deneane Brown, a friend of both the governor and the accuser, to make contact with the woman before she was due in court to finalize an order of protection against the aide, David W. Johnson,” they continue. “After the calls from Ms. Brown and the conversation with the governor, the woman failed to appear for the court hearing on Feb. 8, and the case was dropped.” (Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., is a guest on ABC’s “Top Line” Tuesday — noon ET, livestreaming at ABCNews.com.) More maneuverings: “California Attorney General Jerry Brown plans to formally announce via web video on Tuesday that he's entering the race to be his state's next governor,” ABC’s Teddy Davis reports. “If he wins in November, this would be a repeat performance for Brown, who was elected to the first of two terms as governor in 1974.” The likely nominee: “One by one, other Democrats seen as possible contenders for the governorship this year took themselves out of contention. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom launched a bid but dropped out in October. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last year that he would not run, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last month did the same,” Michael Rothfeld reports in the Los Angeles Times. “Though he had been plotting a run for two years, Brown had long resisted making it official while two would-be Republican contenders — former EBay chief Meg Whitman and California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner — battle for their party's nomination.” Speaking of campaigning…. Organizing for American goes splashy in advance of the president’s announcement on the way forward on health care, with a full-page advertisement in USA Today claiming more than 8.8 million hours of service pledged — and counting — from its volunteers, on behalf of members of Congress who support health are reform. “The President’s health reform proposal will save jobs, protect us all from insurance company abuses, cover the uninsured, and bring down costs,” the ad reads. “But first, Congress must finish the job. That’s why Organizing for America volunteers have committed over 8 million hours to support members of Congress who fight for real health reform. That’s millions of voter-to-voter conversations to spread the facts, build support, and win elections for those who stand up.” Looking toward Wednesday — now, it’s about cost: “President Obama this week will begin a climactic push to rally restive Congressional Democrats to pass major health care legislation by hammering the argument that the costs of failure will be higher insurance premiums and lost coverage for individuals and businesses,” Jackie Calmes and David Herszenhorn write in The New York Times. “With Democratic Congressional leaders, particularly Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing a steep challenge in mustering votes for the health care legislation, Mr. Obama’s remarks on its financial and fiscal implications could be crucial. In effect, officials indicate, he will contrast Democrats’ proposals for expanding coverage and for regulating insurance company practices with what he sees as the shortcomings of the Republicans’ incremental plans.” Shopping for votes in a sparse store: “At least nine of the 39 Democrats who voted ‘nay’ when the House passed sweeping overhaul legislation 220-215 in November are now undecided or withholding judgment until they see Obama's final product, according to an Associated Press survey,” the AP’s Erica Werner writes. “With four vacancies in the House, Pelosi will need 216 votes. She would command exactly that many if all the remaining Democrats who voted ‘yes’ in November did so again. But many lawmakers expect defections, especially of members who oppose federal funding for abortion and feel the Senate language is too permissive in that regard.” Just guessing it won’t be him: “It’s a huge challenge because … the people who voted yes would love a second bite at the apple to vote no this time because they went home and had an unpleasant experience as a result of their ‘yes’ vote. I don’t know if there is anybody who voted no that regrets it,” Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., tells Politico’s Patrick O’Connor. New magic number, as of next Monday: 216. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., is leaving his House post to focus on his campaign for governor, letting a Blue Dog off the hook in the process. The political case, in the other direction … Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on ABC’s “Top Line”: “You’re going to have an outraged country, you’re going to have a messy process, and then you’re going to finish the year with a big effort to repeal it, which defines every Democrat’s race. That is what will dominant the rest of the legislative year if they try to jam this through.” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., with a complicated timeline, but a timeline nonetheless: “The only thing that works here is the House has to pass the Senate bill,” Conrad told The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent. “Then the House can initiate a reconciliation measure that would deal with a limited number of issues that score for budget purposes.” Into the weeds: “President Barack Obama this week will defend a controversial legislative maneuver to pass healthcare reform, the White House hinted Monday,” The Hill’s Sam Youngman reports.  On the president’s Tuesday schedule: “President Obama will travel to Savannah, Georgia today to speak about incentives for homeowners who make energy efficiency investments in their homes, as called for during his State of the Union address, and part of a larger jobs creation strategy outlined by the president in December of last year,” ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. “The president will visit a training center at Savannah Technical College where people learn how to install energy efficient HVAC systems, solar panels, and installation and will outline details of his ‘HOMESTAR’ program that would aim to create jobs by encouraging American families to invest in energy saving home improvements.” Greeting him there: “Though we’re near St. Patrick’s Day, this is no reason to dye the fountains of Savannah green. His is a record worthy of examination, but certainly not celebration,” Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed. “A year since its signing, four million more unemployed, and 35,600 additional jobs forecast to be lost in Georgia this year, the president’s seminal economic endeavor, an $862 billion stimulus package, has failed to live up to its promises. The president took a big gamble and now, with a $1.6 trillion budget deficit, we’ve all lost.” Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., is angry — and so are his colleagues: “An angry Senator Jim Bunning refused to answer questions from ABC News about his decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Z. Byron Wolf report. “Senator Bunning was even more expressive before the cameras arrived, using a little sign language. When Senate producer Z. Byron Wolf spotted Bunning exiting his office, Bunning said, ‘I’m not talking to anybody.’ When Wolf asked him to stay and talk to our cameras, Bunning walked toward the elevator and shot the middle finger over his head.” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., swings back: “Political theater? Much more than that,” Kerry writes at TPM. “Here's what's at stake: 2000 federal highway workers were furloughed this morning, losing the pay that their families depend on and halting work on critical national infrastructure. Nearly 1.2 million could lose their unemployment benefits without an extension of that program, pulling away a critical financial lifeline. This has to end.” Mitt’s moves: Former Gov. Mitt Romney’s, R-Mass., new book hits bookstores Tuesday, and he hits “The View” and Letterman to mark the occasion. “The title of Mitt Romney’s new book, ‘No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,’ is a not-so-subtle jab at the so-called ‘American Apology Tour’ that President Obama engaged in upon entering office,” ABC’s Teddy Davis reports. “Romney’s book as a whole, however, may best be remembered not for the contrasts it offers with the incumbent president but for the contrasts it presents with ‘Going Rogue,’ the best-selling memoir of Sarah Palin, a potential Romney rival for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Where Palin’s book is a mix of score settling and juicy anecdotes, Romney’s book consists of a 64-point plan for strengthening the United States and countless references to what he has been reading.”
The Kicker: “Excuse me! This is a senators-only elevator!” — Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., not wanting to talk at the moment. “He is not a very pleasant person. He is nasty, mean; the skin of an onion would look deep compared to his.” — Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
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Intern for the ABC News Political Unit: The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time summer 2010 interns in Washington, D.C. The paid internship begins Monday, May 24, 2010, and runs through Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. Political Unit interns attend political events and contribute to stories for the politics page of ABCNews.com. They also help ABC News by conducting research, maintaining our calendar of upcoming political events, and posting stories to ABCNews.com. In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college. The internship is NOT open to recent graduates. You also must be able to work eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. Interns will be paid $8.50/hour. If you write well, follow politics closely, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to Teddy Davis, ABC News' Deputy Political Director, at teddy.davis@abc.com, by Friday, March 12, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps. Please indicate in both your cover letter and the body of your email your student status and the specific dates and hours of your availability.

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