On KBH, re-election, and fundraising

Todd Gillman and Dave Michaels in today's DMN:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has been coy about whether she'll retire or seek another term, will begin replenishing her war chest today at a $1,000-a-plate breakfast in Washington.

She could be gearing up for a 2012 re-election bid, or testing the waters to see how hard it would be to raise the millions needed after her drubbing in the March gubernatorial primary. She could simply be gathering the resources needed for routine political travel and staff, or intentionally sending an ambiguous signal, to avoid irrelevance in her last years in office.

As far as fundraising goes, this is about the least committed fundraising possible. In other words, this is the low-hanging fruit. A $1k breakfast is an easy way to pick up some money from lobbyists: she's still a senator, and one with seniority. She's not even asking for a maximum $2400, just $1k. So she gets to raise a reasonable amount of money from supporters, former staffers and lobbyists with a minimum of effort. So far, this is the only Kay Bailey Hutchison fundraising activity that I have heard of.

Every indication is that Senator Hutchison is exploring running for re-election, but not committed to it. She's flipped on a couple key issues -- earmarking and comprehensive immigration reform -- that are necessary to deprive potential rivals of hot button issues. Still, she knows that she will face a primary challenge and yet she hasn't started fundraising in earnest like she would have if she were 100% committed to running for re-election.

There's certainly plenty of sense to this strategy from KBH's perspective: tack right, work hard, and then check back in around June. Take a poll and see where she's at against her opponents -- and trust me, there will be opponents. What do major fundraisers and donors think? How's the overall political climate? See if any of their messages are resonating or will resonate with primary voters. Is Kay Bailout still remembered and toxic, or a thing of the past? Is Perry rumored to be inclined to work hard against her or mostly sit it out?

The downside is that this captures what lots of Republicans dislike about Hutchison: I'll resign my seat! No I won't! Yes I will but later! No I won't!

If I were to predict right now, I would think it's about 50/50 whether she decides to run again for re-election in 2012, but with a nudge on the scales that says she's more likely to retire rather than face a very uncertain result in the primary. Because that primary is likely to have multiple legitimate candidates from the right who can easily force her into a runoff and then beat her in a runoff.

Posted by Evan @ 12/08/10 05:28 PM


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