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Is Kay’s Campaign Kaput Already?

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Another day, another poll bearing good news for Rick Perry. This time it’s a Rasmussen survey that puts Perry 10 points ahead of Kay Bailey Hutchison among likely GOP primary voters.

The Dallas Morning News has the details.

Burka seems ready to jump off a bridge. A few months ago, Burka was overly confident in Hutchison’s chances. Now, he has swung too far in the opposite direction:

“What is the case for a Hutchison victory at this point? There’s only one argument that I can think of, and that is she can expand the primary turnout. That seems a lot less likely today than it did when she first got into the race. It’s hard to beat an incumbent with 76% favorability and 74% job approval.”

Whoa. Let’s not write off Kay Bailey just yet.

I’ve always viewed Perry as the odds-on favorite in a Republican primary for these reasons. But Hutchison still has a decent chance.

For one, I disagree that her only path to victory is to expand the primary, as Burka argues. Yes, she needs moderate Republicans and cross-over Democrats to vote for her, but she can’t rely on them to win. Hutchison also must snare a big chunk of the hard-core Republican primary crowd. And that’s doable.

How? Run as a right-wing populist.

Right wing populism — combining socially conservative views with the sense that the common man is getting screwed by the government, by Wall Street, by insurance companies….you name it — has become a powerful political force the past year. If you doubt that, you haven’t been watching enough Glenn Beck. Limbaugh and O’Reilly have been spouting right-wing populism too.

Perry is vulnerable on that front, with his fealty to big road builders, big home builders, big insurance companies. Those high favorability ratings of his may come cashing down awfully quick during a tough campaign. Millions worth of negative advertising has that effect on people.

Hutchison sounded a bit like a right-wing populist the other day at her press conference. She ripped Perry for presiding over a state with the highest home insurance rates in the nation, high property taxes, high electricity rates, and one of the nation’s highest drop-out rates. All the while touting her conservative credentials.

Can Hutchison — who’s been called the senator from Highland Park — pull off populism of any kind? That’s a good question. I would guess not even Hutchison knows the answer.

But it offers her a way to beat Perry. And we shouldn’t count her out.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.