Kay Over Texas: Did That Rock or What?

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The Kay Over Texas ’09 tour, in which our senior U.S. senator announced her long-delayed candidacy for governor in 18 Texas cities, concludes later today in El Paso. So it’s time to take stock, folks. What have we gleaned this week about Hutchison and the likely tenor of her rock-’em, sock-’em showdown with Gov. Rick Perry? Well, among other things: She Moves People At her kick-off rally, Monday morning at her hometown high school in La Marque, Hutchison drew only about 150 fans (counting a host of campaign staffers). If she’d held the event in the science lab on the third floor, it would have been SRO and looked dandy on TV. But in the gym, with row after row of empty bleachers, it seemed a bit sad. And it sent the roadies into panic mode. Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman’s did the week’s single finest reporting job, videotaping staffers’ efforts to concoct the appearance of a throng. “First we were there,” one bemused man told Herman, gesturing, “then we were behind the rope, and then we were behind the podium.” Even in a smaller venue later that day at UT-Austin, the Observer’s Josh Haney reported that folks were being urged to huddle together near the stage. Around the state, Hutchison’s crowds were consistently dinky. But hey: It’s August, right? Offense Beats DefenseHutchison lit out after Perry more aggressively than expected. On her Hollywood-slick announcement-eve video, the gravely announcer’s voice called her “a leader who can end the grandstanding in Austin, who isn’t chasing headlines while Texans are losing jobs.” It’s a smart way to counter Perry’s oh-so-predictable attempt to paint her as a “Washington politician” out of touch with Texans—and to play up the fact that Perry’s always been about politickin’ rather than governin’. Hutchison’s slogan, positioned behind her in camera view, reinforced that message: “Results, not politics.” Can She Lie With a Straight Face? Check! Few political skills are more treasured by strategists and consultants (especially her old pal Karl Rove) than the ability to fib without flinching. Hutchison proved her merits when she launched an indictment of her opponent’s failures in office thusly: “And after ten Perry years, where are we? 

Property taxes? Highest in the country…” Actually, we’re 16th in property taxes—and 48th in total tax burden. She’s Got a Point Republicans do like to win. Accordingly, perhaps Hutchison’s most promising line of attack was on Perry’s role in narrowing the Republican base in Texas with his wingnut pandering. (Not that she’d ever put it quite that way, since she does a fair amount of it herself.) “As Republicans,” she said, “we can continue down the road of shrinking majorities. Or we can inspire, unite, and grow our party. Build it from the bottom up, and reach out to Texans and say, ‘If you are for limited government, lower taxes and less spending, we want you in the Republican Party, we welcome you and want you to be active in our cause.’ ” Unless you are, say, somebody like Sonia Sotomayor. The Great Ones Need Just One NameCher, Madonna, Mary-Kate, Ashley, Britney, Hillary, Beyonce … and Kay! In keeping with the post-Clinton tradition of women politicians dropping their last names, superstar-style, there wasn’t much “Hutchison” to be seen. The Web site says it all: “Texans for Kay: The Kay Network.” English Are Optional Hutchison’s big opening line: “It is with pride and humility for history that I announce today that I am a candidate for Governor of Texas.” Just what, pray tell, is “humility for history” supposed to mean? Or, for that matter, “pride for history?” If Hutchison decides to ever speak to a non-Fox News reporter, we might find out. Of course, she can never hope to out-duel Perry in a battle of the anti-syntactical. At a press conference this week denouncing health care, the guv was asked about his old/new opponent and firmly established his dominance: “Is Washington got the best answers?” he said. “Or is Texas got the best answers? I happen to think that if you use the other 50 states, or the other 49 states, as a measurement, Texas is doing pretty good.”Old Times Not Forgotten In her kick-off at La Marque High School, which is now majority-minority, Hutchison said she wanted to “help create an education system like I had.” Once again, the Statesman’s Ken Herman nailed it: “Yes, 1961 was a great time to be in Texas public schools—if you were white and didn’t face learning disabilities.” Look Out for Perry’s Merry Pranksters!Intent on ensuring a high-minded debate, Perry staffers and supporters dogged Hutchison around the state with a variety of extremely clever stunts. On Monday, they wore pig noses and handed out Kay Bailout bucks, hauling around a portable billboard proclaiming, “Kay Bailout Express.” At a Tuesday-evening rally in Dallas, a plane hired by Perry’s campaign circled above with a banner reading, “Kay come clean—release your taxes!” Asked about the antics, Perry said, “You don’t want a campaign that’s just going to be boring a drudgery, surely. And the idea that somehow or another there’s not going to be a little humor injected into the campaign. There will probably be people who will do something on me one of these days.” Golly: Do you think?