We’ve covered the forthcoming showdown between Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry and Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a few times already, primarily to note that state-level Religious Right figures like David Barton and Rick Scarborough have already started to line up behind Perry in what is shaping up to be an epic and nasty primary as Hutchison challenges Perry in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.
Today, Politico reports that players on the ground are expecting a battle like nothing they have ever seen:
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t formally announced she’s running for governor, but Texas Republicans are nevertheless gearing up for a knock-down, drag-out 2010 primary brawl between Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, a race that will pit the nation’s longest-serving sitting governor against one of its most popular statewide politicians.
Perry’s campaign has already slammed Hutchison as “Kay Bailout Hutchison” because of her support for President George W. Bush’s bailout legislation last year — and Perry’s State of the State address last month focused on the Republican Party’s failures in Washington. It was reported that a Perry operative was recently digging into City Hall documents in search of unfavorable information about Hutchison’s husband, a prominent bond attorney.
Hutchison’s camp has returned fire by portraying Perry as an ineffectual executive who has worn out his welcome in Texas.Even Sarah Palin has gotten into the act, endorsing Perry and suggesting Hutchison was not sufficiently opposed to abortion rights.
“The level of animosity between these two is unbelievable. In a business that thrives on animosity, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is going to be a war,” said one senior GOP operative from Texas. “The governor doesn’t like being nudged out, and the senator believes she’s entitled to the governorship — she gave the guy a chance four years ago.”
“This is one of those races where people avert their gaze, because it portends to be so ugly and nasty that a lot of people don’t want to have much to do with it,” added longtime Texas Republican pollster David Hill.
A recent poll shows Hutchison leading Perry by twenty-five points, and so Perry has gotten to work shoring up support from the state’s right-wing base:
Part of Perry’s strategy is to render her unacceptable to conservative voters who traditionally make up a large share of the primary electorate. He recently spoke at an anti-abortion rally, where he touted his support of legislation that would require doctors to show women seeking an abortion a sonogram.
He recently drew headlines as one of several Southern governors who threatened to turn down a portion of the stimulus money directed to their states.
“Perry is clearly catering to the hard-core conservatives. These are people that dominate at the state party level,” said [James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.]
As Mark McKinnon, the media adviser to former President Bush, put it: “This will be a hall of fame Texas political brawl. Even if you don’t have a favorite, this is a race that will be entertaining just to hear the shoulder pads crack.”