In the wake of Rick Perry's lack luster victory in a 3 person race and Bill White's impressive win in a crowded, well financed 8 person race, Cook Political Report has shifted the Texas Gubernatorial race to a toss up.
Some of the key points include, Perry is weak, White is strong, and Democrats have had a clear frontrunner for months while the Republicans have spent time and money sorting out their weak field.
White is probably the strongest gubernatorial candidate Democrats have nominated since Ann Richards was the party's standard bearer in 1990. He is a proven fundraiser, starts the race with a solid base of support, and boasts a resume in business and a record as mayor that will make it hard for Republicans to label him as a screaming liberal Democrat. It helps that Democrats nominated a Hispanic woman for Lieutenant Governor, which is likely to spike Hispanic turn out in November, something that will benefit White. Finally, there are some signs of Perry fatigue, which could hurt the Governor at a time when the electorate is restless.
The national mood plays into the shift from Cook. If KBH had won, it would stay as a likely Republican seat. However, what Cook fails to mention is, if KBH had looked stronger, White would likely still be running for U.S. Senate against John Sharp.
Interestingly enough, we might not have made such a move if Hutchison had won the primary since it would have become an open-seat contest where we would give greater weight to the state's traditional Republican voting patterns. But, in this case, Perry is a known quantity and traditional voting patterns may not matter as much. Stay tuned; this is likely to become one of the more hotly contested gubernatorial races in the country.
Perry is now up against a well organized, well financed Democrat. Some would argue this is the first time he has faced a challenger of this magnitude since becoming Governor when George Bush vacated the seat.
Cook alludes directly to this point.
Perry is known for running well funded, aggressive, no-holds-barred campaigns and this will be no exception. However, this also might end up being the most difficult race of his career.
The paradigm of this race is going to be clear. Perry will run as a proven conservative. White will simply lean on Perry to answer why so many things are going wrong in a state completely controlled by one party and a Governor who has been in the Mansion for a decade. He is responsible in part or whole for decreasing graduation rates, higher insurance costs, attempting to tax and toll pre-existing rolls, huge government land grabs, rising utility rates, and two different major budget shortfalls.
With a definitive White win, expect other groups to simply say…
As a result, we are moving the contest from the Lean Republican to the Toss Up column.