I have two things to say about this.
Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t yet said whether he’s running for re-election — but Attorney General Greg Abbott doesn’t appear to be waiting for him to make up his mind.
Abbott is collecting résumés and assembling a gubernatorial campaign team. He’s shaking hands, giving speeches and edging his way onto the covers of small-town newspapers across the state. He also just opened a new campaign headquarters — an entire floor of the Texas Association of Broadcasters building in downtown Austin, according to a Republican consultant familiar with Abbott’s campaign.
And he’s building up his grassroots infrastructure online, collecting supporters via email blasts, web petitions and increasingly partisan and vociferous social media messaging.
While Abbott is waiting for Perry’s decision, expected to come in June after the gubernatorial veto period ends, he isn’t biding his time.
He’s sitting on an $18 million war chest — trumping Perry’s at last count.
He has used Twitter to brandish campaign mailers depicting handguns in holsters — aimed at staunch Second Amendment advocates — and to document his gubernatorial-style visits to the scenes of the West fertilizer depot explosion (he was the first statewide elected official there, surprising even his own staff) and the Granbury tornado.
On his Facebook page, Abbott implores supporters to sign a petition to “save religious liberty from the IRS’ wrath” and another to demand answers from the Obama administration on the “truth surrounding Benghazi.” Those were just two of many he has posted in recent weeks to collect email addresses and build a viral grassroots network.
He’s pressing the flesh in person, too, hopping from Tea Party meetings to ladies’ luncheons, from Fort Bend County to Beeville.
Of late, every pronouncement and ruling from the attorney general seems to be a campaign battle cry.
Last month, Abbott issued an opinion arguing that the Texas Constitution prohibits government entities from recognizing domestic partner insurance benefits. He told a crowd in Waco that he would sue the Obama administration to protect Texans’ gun rights if the U.S. joins a global United Nations arms treaty.
This month, he called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. He also threw the weight of his office behind grassroots activists concerned with an alleged “anti-American” slant in the lesson plans of CSCOPE, the state-developed curriculum management system used by many Texas public schools.
1. I’m still not convinced that Rick Perry will go quietly. If he’s still deluded enough to think he can run for President in 2016, I don’t see how making himself a lame duck in 2013 and a private citizen in January of 2015 helps him with that. Of course, losing in next March’s primary wouldn’t help either, but if he thinks he can win in 2016 then surely he thinks he can win in 2014, or he thinks Abbott will abide by their “agreement” to not run against each other. Basically, I just don’t see it in Perry’s character to stand down. I freely admit I could be wrong about this, but Perry strikes me as being like an aging formerly-elite athlete who maybe doesn’t have the most objective view of his own skill level but still shouldn’t be underestimated. I just wonder what kind of campaign he’d run against Abbott, who is nothing like KBH was in 2010. What case could Perry make to Republican primary voters to turn them away from Abbott? He must have some dirt somewhere, but would that be enough?
2. Unless you’re one of the 1.5 million people who voted in the 2012 or 2010 GOP primaries, Greg Abbott isn’t interested in talking to you. He doesn’t need your vote and doesn’t particularly care about your vote. He’s not making any pretense about being Governor of all of Texas. Rick Perry isn’t exactly a model of consensus and bipartisan outreach, but even he has had a few feints in that direction during the thousand or so years he’s been in the Governor’s mansion, most notably when he called on his fellow Aggie John Sharp to design and sell the margins tax back in 2006. As bad as Perry is, and Lord knows he’s terrible, I believe Abbott would be even more alienating and divisive as Governor. If that thought doesn’t scare you, it should.