TIME magazine covers this week's craziness here in Texas, and talks about how it plays into the Rick vs. Kay race (link). Excerpts follow...
Most observers in Texas believe Hutchison will indeed challenge Perry. She has moved from being coy about her plans to being less coy about running for governor. Still, there has been no official annoucement. And so Perry has embarked on a Pavlovian political exercise: you say "Hutchison" and he says "Washington." Some Perry backers have even dubbed the 16-year senate veteran "Kay Bailout Hutchison."
This week's tea parties afforded the governor an opportunity to tap into the Texas spirit of independence, a surefire crowd-pleaser in the reddest of red states, one with a profound sense of its own identity, independent history and anti-Washington sentiment. "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression," Perry told roaring tea party crowds in Austin and Fort Worth, quoting Sam Houston, Texas' founding father.
Dressed in jeans, boots and a baseball cap with a camouflage peak and a hunting outfitter's logo, the Texas governor was one of the few major politicians to appear at the tea parties across the country. While crowds yelled "SECEDE, SECEDE," Perry, 60 but telegenic and youthful, thought out loud that secession might be the outcome if Washington did not mend its "oppressive" high-spending, dictatorial ways. (Most experts suggest the notion that Texas can legally secede is mistaken, but the state does have the right to split into five states, offering the prospect of 10 U.S. senators, math that would send cold shivers down any Democratic back.)[SNIP]
Is the governor's strategy working? While Perry was whipping up the tea party crowds, Senator Hutchison was in Houston touting her work in Washington and her support for the federal deductability of state sales taxes. "The senator is on the front lines in working against the Obama Administration and their unnecessary spending," her spokesman said. It was weak tea compared to Perry's red rhetoric. Straggling the Washington-Texas divide has been difficult for Hutchison. While Perry has been outspoken in rejecting federal unemployment funds, saying it would result in increased premiums for Texas employers, Senator Hutchison has been criticized for a less than clear response on the issue. She voted against the stimulus bill, then said Perry should find a way to take the benefits without burdening employers in the future.