Rick Perry, Prop 2, Gay Marriage, and Texas
A key campaign goal of Gov. Rick Perry – boosting the number of conservative evangelical voters – gets a test run this week with the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.My guess is that this effort isn't just about the primary. In fact, I think Perry may have more to be worried about in the general election than in the primary. However, that question is largely based on how significant Kinky Friedman will prove to be as a candidate. My guess all along has been that Friedman is likely to be a serious candidate. Currently however, he appears to be splitting the liberals/disaffecteds vote with any Democratic nominee. [Although I'm suspicious of the specifics of Zogby's online polling, it is likely that some broad principles are reasonable to determine from the poll.] If that continues, Perry will be re-elected.
Perry aides view the issue as an ideal way to build the political base and refine tactics they hope will benefit them next year, such as targeted e-mails and appeals from the pulpit for "values voters" to get involved in politics.
"This is going to help us a lot because these voters who turn out to vote for Proposition 2 are people we're going to be able to communicate with and try to get them to vote in the primary," said Perry political adviser David Carney.
Mr. Perry, already popular with social conservatives, has been a vocal supporter of the amendment since it was created, and it has been key in his aggressive efforts to add even more religious conservatives to his flock. He appears in a video endorsing the ban on the Texas Alliance for Marriage Web site, which is funded by a major Perry political donor, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation).
Since the spring, a network of conservative ministers called the Texas Restoration Project has held a series of "pastor policy briefings" across Texas featuring Mr. Perry and members of his administration. The governor has spoken at all six project meetings statewide.
The project aims to enlist 1,000 "patriot pastors" and register 300,000 new voters, and leaders say they're closing in on both targets.
The effort mirrors a strategy that helped President Bush win re-election last year: Identify and register new voters likely to be friendly to the GOP cause, and then rely on churches and religious leaders to get them to the polls.
Mr. Carney said the effort to register religious conservatives will benefit such Republicans as Mr. Perry, but not GOP primary challenger Carole Keeton Strayhorn.
"This doesn't help her in any way," he said, "because her whole campaign is based on the premise that somehow they're going to bring people into the Republican primary who don't normally vote in the Republican primary. Carole's whole theory, as crazy as it is, is that they're going to get these people to vote."
Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said new voters will back the comptroller, not the governor.
"We are trying to encourage everyone to show up and vote," he said. "As for the people who vote for or against the proposition, we hope there are new voters because every new voter who goes to the poll is more likely to vote for Strayhorn rather than this failed incumbent."
Both candidates support the amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. Democratic challenger Chris Bell said he opposes gay marriage but is against the amendment because state law already bans gay marriage.
Mr. Carney said the Perry campaign hopes to mine data on voter turnout Tuesday and incorporate new voter names in its files to "microtarget" people next year with e-mails, mailings, phone calls and door-to-door contacts.
"It enables us to refine our message delivery so when we're talking to people, we're talking about issues they care about," he said.
Some advocates of the gay-marriage ban caution against assuming that Proposition 2 supporters are all conservative Republicans.
"The most solid voting block for the amendment are groups that are not Republican," said Kelly Shackelford, who is working with a pro-amendment group, Texans for Marriage. "They are the African-American community, which is heavily Democrat, and the Hispanic community, which is majority Democrat."
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