Well, there was never any doubt that they’d be swimming in cash.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison moved nearly $8 million into her state campaign finance account last year — a high-stakes signal that she is committed to running for Texas governor in 2010.
In December she transferred most of that money from her U.S. Senate campaign account, according to campaign finance reports released Thursday. She started the year with $7.9 million in the bank.
Gov. Rick Perry, who intends to seek re-election, will prove a formidable foe with $6.6 million in the bank so far, according to the reports. A political battle between the two could cost each of them more than $20 million.
Remember how many ads there were on the TV this past fall, even though the Presidential campaigns didn’t do much? We got off way easy compared to what this might be. Be prepared to be very sick of this in another year or so.
So does this mean that KBH is for sure running for Governor? She thinks she is, and I think she is, too. But I still think you never really know with her, and you won’t know for sure till she files for the primary. And even if she does run, it still doesn’t mean she’ll resign from the Senate first. Go read that Politico article again and see just how much KBH and her decision are in the spotlight. If it were just a matter of her winning next November, that would be one thing. But she has to win a Republican primary first, and I don’t see how she can afford to give Rick Perry that kind of ammunition to use against her. I just cannot imagine her resigning any time before March of 2010, if at all.
Which brings us to the eventual election, special or otherwise, to fill her seat. This bit from that Politico story is worth considering:
If Hutchison gives up her seat, national Republicans would likely move quickly to recruit their candidate and help raise money to ensure the seat stays in the party’s hands. But doing that would divert precious resources that would otherwise be used to help the party recover from two disastrous elections and defend four open seats in 2010.
“It’s more than a casual interest that we at least maintain 41 senators,” said Texas’ junior senator, John Cornyn, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He told reporters Wednesday that Hutchison might not resign if she pursues her governor’s bid.
Hutchison’s resignation likely would set off a primary battle between state and congressional lawmakers and state officials, according to local political operatives. A couple of prominent GOP names have also recently bubbled up as potential Hutchison successors, including state Attorney General Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
And even though Democrats would have a tough climb to win the Senate seat, some already have their eyes on it, including Houston Mayor Bill White. The national party would undoubtedly put a huge amount of resources into the race if winning it would get Senate Democrats to the magic number of 60.
The prospect of national money changes things in a couple of ways. For one, I think it renders the Rick Casey scenario essentially moot. If the election were this May, with the current field of Bill White, John Sharp, Roger Williams, Michael Williams, Florence Shapiro, and Elizabeth Ames Jones, I could imagine the two Dems splitting 45% and the four GOPers splitting the rest, with none of them breaking 20% and thus yielding an all-Dem runoff. That’s because none of the GOPers has a particularly high profile, so none of them would be likely to break away from the pack. A few million dollars, plus some big endorsements and whatever help the NRSC – conveniently chaired by Texas’ junior Senator – can offer goes a long way towards distinguishing one of these contenders. Under those conditions, I can’t imagine whichever one of them drew the golden ticket would not do far better than 20%; he or she would probably lead the field, and then win the runoff comfortably.
It gets a bit more complicated if a Dewhurst or an Abbott, both of whom have statewide profiles as well as a boatload of their own money, jumps in. Most likely, either one of them gets in because he’s the chosen one, or they both stay out because it’s made clear to them that they’re not. Dewhurst could still run anyway if he got piqued about it, but I wouldn’t expect that. Bottom line is that someone on the Republican side is going to have a ton of resources available. That person will be a huge favorite to win. We can spin theories and possibilities and what-ifs all we want, but that strikes me as the most probably outcome.
So given that one Republican contender will almost surely have the near-full force of the national and state parties behind him or her, doesn’t this change the math for the two Democrats? For one thing, we come back to the same question we started off with, which is how do you win the inevitable runoff? I seriously doubt either of them has an answer to that question right now. Sure, the national Dems will be there to help as well, but in a war of statewide turnout with a motivated Republican electorate, how do you win? I don’t have an answer for that, either.
Which brings me back to the question I keep asking: Why not try for Governor instead? KBH hasn’t won that primary against Rick Perry yet. She may stay in her seat through November of 2010 – or at least through September of 2010, which would be good enough for special election purposes – which would give you a second bite at the statewide apple if she beats both Perry and you. The national GOP isn’t going to care about that race. The issues won’t get tied up nearly as much in the state of the nation and the Obama administration, so you’ll have hopes for crossovers. Just based on the non-trivial chance that Perry takes the primary, I don’t see how this race doesn’t offer better odds of a Democrat winning. And yet here we are. It’s still a little too early to be officially worried about 2010, but it’s certainly not irrational to be.