Could Kay Bailey Hutchison win re-election if she ran?

I think I'd put the odds at more than slightly against her. Now, I know this is hypothetical, but I like hypotheticals. [Side note: it was also a hypothetical when I started this blog to write about KBH would be an underdog against Perry if she challenged him.]

KBH would have to first decide to run, of course. And I have no idea about that. She certainly has been lusting after being governor for the last 8 years or so, with rumors that she was frequently telling people that she wanted to stop travelling, spend more time with her family, etc. She also sold her house in Virginia.

But I think anyone who has paid attention over the last 8 years has also been inured to her words about running for office. She once promised to serve only 2 terms in the Senate. Then she thought about running for governor in 2002. Then she flirted for years with running in 2006 for governor. Then she's changed her mind innumerable times about resigning from the Senate; let's not relive them all, shall we?

On the other hand, if she was absolutely not running for re-election, why bother flying in John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell? Why bother laying out reasons which could plausibly be the reason to run for re-election in 2012?

So, let's start with the obvious: she will get a primary challenger. I'd be shocked if she avoids a serious primary challenge. And I do mean shocked. (Thought exercise: if for some fluke, no one ran against a KBH, wouldn't Ted Cruz jump in? In today's political environment, I think he'd beat her even more soundly than Marco Rubio is beating Charlie Crist.) Lots of people were planning their runs and she promised many of them personally she'd resign. They won't forget.

Then the second obvious fact: Perry just showed her challengers how to beat her. There are some mitigating factors, of course. For one, Kay doesn't need as much of a reason why she's running, which she utterly failed at explaining in her run for governor. Second, running against earmarks in 2012 may not play as well as it did in 2010, plus the issue played slightly better against her in a state race than it would in a federal run.

But then, her answers on abortion will also stand out more in a Senate primary, since it is more of a federal issue than a state issue. And there are so many attack ads that write themselves. The abortion ads, the pork ads, the termlimits pledge turned resigned pledge. I think that alot of people would spend more time calling her a moderate, whereas Rick v. Kay didn't end up as a conservative vs moderate pledge. That's a strategy that gets her into a runoff but loses her the runoff. And one final problem: plenty of folks joined and gave money to Kay for Governor at the time because it looked like a winner. I don't think those people would be there for the re-elect.

All in all, if I were advising Hutchison, I'd tell her to serve her term out and retire gracefully without considering running for even a second. But, as we've learned, nothing seems too certain with KBH until the filing deadline has passed.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, last 6 months or so excepted, was never an outspoken, partisan leader in DC. If she really starts leading the charge, then we'll know that something is up.

Posted by Evan @ 04/02/10 08:38 AM


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I backed Kay in the primary, and have been happy with her as senator -- but will not vote for her in the 2012 Senatorial primary if she does seek the nomination then.

Posted by Rhymes With Right @ 04/02/10 02:57 PM

Hate to tell you but it's 2010. Maybe it's time for a face lift to your column heading.

Posted by carpenter @ 04/03/10 10:00 AM

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