With a big lead in the polls, the real question may be whether Perry can with the GOP nomination without a runoff.
Remember Bill Clements?
In 1978, he became the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. Four years later he was defeated in a bid for re-election, but came back in '86 to win another term. He is widely admired in GOP circles in Texas.
Last June, he and his wife sponsored for a fundraiser in Dallas on behalf of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Gov. Rick Perry for his job in the March 2 primary.
On Tuesday, Bill and Rita Clements officially endorsed Perry for re-election.
It's just the latest in a string of things that have gone Perry's way in his effort to extend his tenure as governor, already the longest in state history. In office since George W. Bush resigned in December 2000, Perry is a favorite of social conservatives who dominate the Texas GOP.
Hutchison's "time for a change" argument — which she tried to make in 2006 in a brief but aborted challenge against Perry and which has returned this year — does not seem to be working. Part of it is an anti-Washington establishment mood that plays to Perry's advantage. Another is that conservatives seem more fired up this year than in the recent past. And Hutchison's abortion record is under attack from the Right. (For example, she supports the Roe decision though is opposed to partial-birth abortion and supports parental notification.)
And speaking of the Washington establishment — or, at the least, the Bush establishment — the family that brought us 41 and 43 is solidly behind Hutchison. And that includes George H.W. and his wife Barbara; Dick Cheney, who was VP under 43 and secretary of defense under 41; James Baker, secretary of state under 41; plus Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. It's a situation that I discussed in a Feb. 8 blog post.
But it doesn't seem to be swaying Lone Star State Republicans. A Blum & Weprin Associates poll conducted for five Texas newspapers released last Sunday shows Perry with 45 percent support, Hutchison at 29 and conservative activist Debra Medina at 17. Eight percent were undecided.
With less than two weeks to go, it appears Hutchison miscalculated.
For much of the year, Medina was an added-on sentence about the Republican primary; as in, "Also running is Debra Medina." Then she showed up in two debates with Perry and Hutch and won over many voters — especially those who were tired of the bickering between the Gov and the Sen. The economy must be fixed, Medina said. People are hurting. And they're not getting answers from the other two Republicans.
She wasn't offering specifics but people liked what they heard.
Even before the debates, Medina morphed into a favorite of many Tea Party activists, who view her as the real deal. On abortion, for example, while Perry opposes the procedure in in all cases except rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger, Medina opposes it with no exceptions. She wants the Texas National Guard to deployed at the border with Mexico. She says she will use state government to deport illegal aliens. Should Texas secede from the Union? She doesn't rule it out.
There have been some who actually thought that she could finish ahead of Hutchison and meet Perry in what would be a runoff on April 13.
Then came the Glenn Beck interview on Feb. 11.
Beck, the bombastic Fox News host, is known for stirring up and egging on the Right, not playing a role in the destruction of one of its heroes. Beck is the one who started the drumbeat that forced out Van Jones as the Obama administration's "green jobs" czar. While other media outlets ignored the story, Beck harped on the fact that Jones signed a "truther" petition back in 2004 — basically saying that the U.S. knew in advance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Jones also had said, in answer to how Republicans could stymie Democratic legislation even though they're in the minority, "The answer to that is, they're assholes."
Beck was relentless against Jones. The administration suddenly saw him as a distraction and began to back off from its support. Jones resigned his post.
Beck's initial approach to Medina was much kinder and gentler. He certainly had nicer things to say about her than he did about Hutchison, who for some reason he kept calling "Hutchinson." And no, maybe 9/11 has nothing to do with running for governor of Texas. But when he asked Medina, on his radio program, about rumors she was a "truther," that she believed the government was involved in 9/11, he probably expected her to dismiss in entirely. Instead, she said this:
I don't have all of the evidence there, Glenn. ... I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There's some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I've not taken a position on that.
You can listen to the interview here:
After Medina is off the program, Beck and his co-hosts couldn't hide their contempt for her. "I think I could write her off the list," he said, dismissively. Lots of guffaws all around.
And they weren't alone. Nearly every review of her interview was contemptuous. She self-destructed. She's finished. Some questioned her sanity.
In trying to halt her decline, she issued this statement:
I was asked a question on the Glenn Beck show today regarding my thoughts on the so-called 9/11 truth movement. I have never been involved with the 9/11 truth movement, and there is no doubt in my mind that Muslim terrorists flew planes into those buildings on 9/11. I have not seen any evidence nor have I ever believed that our government was involved or directed those individuals in any way. No one can deny that the events on 9/11 were a tragedy for all Americans and especially those families who lost loved ones.
But it didn't seem to work. Colleen McCain Nelson, writing in the Dallas Morning News, said the party was over:
Here's how to go from being something of a political phenom back to a fringe candidate in one easy step: Suggest that perhaps the U.S. government had something to do with 9/11.
Debra Medina has been a candidate on the rise, skyrocketing from a distant third place to right in the thick of things in the GOP gubernatorial primary. But her ascenscion could screech to a halt after voters listen to her exchange with Glenn Beck. ...
Medina has now backtracked, issuing a statement blaming Muslim terrorists for the attacks. But the candidate's own words in the Beck interview speak volumes. The question caught her off guard, but Medina clearly has significant doubts about 9/11.
Perhaps Medina's supporters share these views. But to me, this sounds like an effective way to put your campaign on the fast track back to the fringe.
Meanwhile, Medina's supporters have blasted Beck for "sabotaging" their candidate. Blogger Steve Watson wrote that Beck "has once again proven himself as a hypocritical corporate media shill with his efforts to demonize" Medina. I am quoting at length from his blog here, which I found at PrisonPlanet, only because it is pretty similar to a lot of comments I saw about Beck from her supporters since the interview. Watson is not alone:
Beck is a a fake revolutionary who has hijacked the freedom movement and is being used to lead conservatives and libertarians down the rabbit hole.
He appeals to selected movements and groups by initially appearing to listen to or support their causes or interests, before proceeding to shoot them down in flames.
Tea Party protesters, end the Fed campaigners and Ron Paul supporters have all been endorsed by Beck in one form or another, before later being referred to as dangerous anarchists or radicals in Beck's game of bait and switch.
His complete lack of credibility owing to his rampant hypocrisy and flip flopping also acts as demonization by association to such grassroots groups.
Beck is without doubt one of the most loathsome, un-American, big government worshipping corporate media whores ever to open his big mouth. He is a man who fakes crying on demand for photo shoots and proclaims his love for America while selling out every single idea that made America great, the right to dissent, the right to question, and the right to exercise the liberties enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
And you thought Beck's problems were with the Left?
It still looks like Perry is going to be forced into an April runoff. At one time, Medina supporters thought they had someone who could edge out Hutchison for second place. It will be interesting to watch if the Tea Party movement — already strong in Texas — can keep the Medina campaign from hemorrhaging. My guess is that it can't.