The puzzling nature of Carole Strayhorn's campaign

"Strayhorn battling campaign slowdown," is the title of Peggy Fikac's SAEN must read on Carole Strayhorn's campaign.

Strayhorn announced in June that she's running for the GOP nomination and had signaled it long in advance by regularly trashing Perry's record on everything from education to transportation to taxes.

But since then, skeptics have found much to feed their doubts.

With the primary just months away, attention-grabbing events including two special legislative sessions on school funding and two hurricanes have hampered her ability to get out a message. As the holidays near, Strayhorn said her efforts are geared toward January, when she expects more voters to tune in.

But even the message she controls has seemed to move in fits and starts.

She has skewered Perry's education finance plan without offering a detailed proposal of her own.

She canceled her radio ads as Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, explaining it was a time for prayer, but soon lambasted Perry at a news conference and within days had her ads back on the air.

She called on Perry to spend $1.2 billion in unanticipated revenue to help local communities deal with the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and when rebuffed said he should use the money to give a tax rebate to homeowners.

When asked about illegal immigration in August, she was quoted as saying, "I sympathize with those coming over who want to put a roof over their heads." Two months later, she blasted a Perry-signed law allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition lower than out-of-state charges if they meet certain conditions.

Strayhorn insisted in an interview at her campaign headquarters which a sign labels "one tough grandma's house" that her broad message is consistent, with a focus that includes "children, children, children" affected by issues such as education and health care.

She said she consistently has "been adamantly opposed to illegal immigration" and that her August comment was part of an answer to someone wondering "why do they come here?"

On school finance, she said in June that she would support a teacher pay raise, with money she said could come from legalizing video lottery terminals. She also has said she would restore money-saving programs cut from her office in 2003 by lawmakers and Perry.

As for a detailed revamp of the property tax-heavy school funding system, she emphasized her support for lowering property taxes and for a "fair business tax." She said she would bring business leaders and educators to the table the day after the March 7 primary "to fix the problem."

Strayhorn said her campaign is going full force and that speeches she's giving around Texas shouldn't be discounted "just because the Capitol press corps isn't out traveling around with me."

"The Capitol press corps ... (and) people in general are going to focus on this after the holidays," she said. "And frankly, everything I'm doing is gearing up to that."

Strayhorn said she has plenty of fundraisers planned, including two in San Antonio, after reporting $7 million in cash on hand in June, compared with nearly $8.8 million for Perry.

She said she has spent close to $1 million buying radio time and added that "when we spend that first million on TV, that's when you'll see the numbers move."

A recent poll scoffed at by Strayhorn, who says "it's all in how you ask the questions" conducted for the Texas Credit Union League found Perry besting Strayhorn head to head by 35 percentage points.

Political scientists, even those who see her as a strong, engaging campaigner, describe her as having something more than an uphill battle.

They note Perry's successful courtship of religious conservatives for a primary in which such voters have been dominant. Strayhorn's desire to lure independents and crossover Democrats to join Republicans who'd prefer her to Perry is a tough task, they say.

"Strayhorn would look like a very decent candidate if she were running against him in an all-comers race. This isn't an all-comers race," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. "She's not right of Genghis Khan. Nor are most Republicans. But most Republicans don't vote in the primary."

Interesting Stein quote.

Strayhorn hasn't found a message that will let her beat Perry in a primary. Without a clear focus on what she's trying to convey to voters, she's tested different themes and that sometimes makes her sound inconsistent. She also has the problem that some see her as reflexively anti-Rick Perry.

Posted by Evan @ 11/21/05 11:21 AM


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Another Bob Stein sighting! He's everywhere. =)

Posted by Anne @ 11/21/05 11:38 AM

is this still considered news?

Posted by hamiltonfan @ 11/21/05 06:58 PM

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