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Pre-Primary: Shami Declares Victory, Hutchison Asks for a Mulligan

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I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to concentrate today. The tune to “Tomorrow” keeps tinkling around my head: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, the ads will go down tomorrow…”

Yep, it’s finally time on Tuesday for votes to be counted in the longest-awaited Texas primary in anybody’s memory—the diasppointingly rote Perry-Hutchison showdown. As the Observer gears up for tomorrow’s online coverage of the state’s most important contests, everybody in Texas seems to be obsessed with whether the governor’s last-minute ad blitz and insurgent Republican Debra Medina’s stifled momentum can help him win 50+1 and avoid an April runoff. That obsession is no surprise, since Perry vs. Hutchison—with Medina’s unlikely rocket-ride from obscurity adding a juicy late plotline—has been the only race covered by most media in any meaningful way. And as any Olympics viewer knows, it has dominated the airwaves as well.

Campaigning in Mesquite on Saturday, Sen. Hutchson confidently declared: “I’m going to be in a runoff with Governor Perry.” And then she said something kind of appealing, perhaps for the first time since she began running for governor: “We’re going to start all over, and we’re going to win this race.”

And really, why not? What the senator clearly needs is a big do-over, a Mulligan. Maybe if folks understand that she won’t run the same completely negative, low-energy, unfocused wreck of a campaign in the runoff, they’ll give her another chance. Sure they will.

But let’s give the senator a break: It’s an itchy situation to be in distant second place on election eve. One candidate who seems totally unfazed by that state of being is Farouk Shami. Trailing Bill White by 40 points in some polls for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he told the Texas Tribune, “I am winning.”

What about dissension in his campaign, with his five professional staffers all quitting en masse? Anger over his statement that white people won’t take factory jobs? The lopsided polls? Pshaw, says Shami. “We’re not a campaign of political career people. And we’re not reaching for regular political voters.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Shami’s partly right. His ardent wooing of Hispanic voters just might pay off with a stronger showing than the polls indicate, especially as South Texans turn out for several contested state House primaries on the Democratic side and also to support Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lieutenant Governor. But it would be mighty surprising if he gets over 30 percent—and the money-per-vote count will be incredibly high, as Shami estimates he’ll ultimately have spent $15 million on the race.

Shami’s likely conqueror on Tuesday, White, got a Page 2 feature in today’s Washington Post as he watches and hopes to see a costly and divisive Republican runoff on the other side. White laid out part of the message he’s honing to use against Perry: “I define success as not simply winning elections but doing something once you get there.” Golly: Who could he be talking about?

As we cover the primaries tomorrow, I promise you this: the Observer will not be focused exclusively on the governor’s race. We’ll also be reporting on the results—and impact—of overlooked-but-important contests like the Democratic primaries for Lieutenant Governor and Agriculture Commissioner, the challenges to State Board of Education members, and the state House contests.

So go vote: To borrow from Kinky Friedman, why the hell not? And then get ready to prop your feet up in front of the television set and once again enjoy a full complement of male-enhancement, car and beer commercials. Ah, freedom …