I've been talking with Kay people and Rick people over the past several days, trying to get a feel for how this race is going.
Kay's people tell me that Rick is going to overextend himself trying to pander to conservatives on abortion, guns, gays, God, and other hot button social issues. Kay's people believe Rick will end up looking out of touch with what they call the "new Texas." Kay will be poised to appeal to all the new people who have moved to Texas over the past several years, they argue. I countered with, "didn't a lot of those people move here due to Rick's decisions which have made Texas' economy stronger compared to, say, California?" Kay's people, suffice it to say, don't agree with that argument. At all.
Kay's people also tell me they aren't going to try to get into a competition over which candidate is more conservative than the other. They don't think they can win that argument, but they will try to hold their own. Instead, they will concede certain issues and make a push for more moderate suburban voters in the big cities.
Kay's people also believe that Rick has a certain ceiling. There are too many people, they tell me, who were permanently turned off from Rick by the HPV vaccination issue, the Trans-Texas Corridor, or some other niche issue that Kay will be shielded from.
Moreover, I am hearing from many, many Kay people that they plan to hammer Rick on the competence issue. They plan to talk about cronyism in appointments. They plan to hammer Rick on mismanagement in state government and paint Rick as aloof and uninterested, in the same way that Democrats painted President Bush as a poor executive who didn't really care about his constituents after Hurricane Katrina.
For example, I received a few separate emails from people this week at email@example.com about the State School abuse scandal. If you aren't up to date on the issue, below is a video about it.
As the Kay people put it, THIS should have been HUGE news all week, and it would have reinforced their assertion that Rick is not good at managing state government. Kay's people tell me there are dozens of examples very similar to this scandal that they could use. Color me skeptical, but if Rick doesn't tie up loose ends at the TYC, state schools, and so forth, she may have an argument.
I am also hearing from Kay's people that Kay believes Rick's unemployment insurance decision will backfire, taxes will go up, and Kay will be able to say Rick raised taxes during a recession. They cite the ironically-named Ray Perryman study and the assertions of prominent state-level Democrats like Jim Dunnam and Garnet Coleman who say that Rick's decision will hurt Texas, not help it (link).
On the other hand, when I ask them about this, Rick's people sigh and get angry at the media's ignorance on this issue. They say that unemployment insurance taxes go up and down all the time, based on business cycles, and that whether Texas took the federal UI money or not, taxes will be going up. Rick's people just believe that Texas will be poised for recovery sooner than the rest of the country if employers don't have to bear as big of a burden. Rick's move, they say, lowers the burden for future hiring and will encourage (or at least not discourage) more part-time hiring.
The question then becomes, will recovery come to Texas in the next few months? If not, Rick may have made a really good long run decision that doesn't look nearly as good in the short run. Kay's people have almost unanimously labeled Rick's stimulus move as political grandstanding, but in fact, it may have been the correct and sound policy move but a problematic short run political move.