The Republican primary is open to any registered Texas voter, but Hutchison's campaign is convinced that Democrats won't participate. Instead, they hope Cheney will cut into Perry's strength among Republican stalwarts.
"I wasn't too sure about him when he was in office, but I like the fight he has shown since he left," said Jim Springer, a Houston retiree who was among more than 100 supporters at Hutchison's event Tuesday. "I wish he would run (for president) in 2012."
• Houston radio host Edd Hendee warmed up the crowd, and he’s still angry about the margiins tax that Perry pushed in 2006 to cover part of the cost of property tax cuts. Before the event started, the DJ played, among others, the Toby Keith song and “Right Now” by Van Halen. Ken Herman tells me “Right Now” is very popular at political events.
• Cheney spoke for about five minutes and Hutchison for about 10. The only other person on stage was Ray Hutchison, the senator’s husband. “Mercy,” Cheney said as he took the stage to a very warm reception, a crowd of about 150 instructed not to wave their signs too high so that they wouldn’t obstruct the view of the half-dozen television cameras behind them. He made only a couple of passing references to Perry, never mentioning him by name. The closest thing he said to a direct hit was this: “Texas needs a true conservative champion in the governor’s office. We westerners know the difference between a real talker and the real deal. And when it comes to being conservative, Kay Bailey Hutchison is the real deal.”
• Hutchison and Cheney worked the short rope line, such as it was, after their brief speeches. There weren’t supposed to be any questions from the press, but Herman got one in that you’ll have to watch in the video below.
Cheney and Hutchison stood before a spray of American and Texas flags on a makeshift stage in an art deco building that was Hobby Airport's original terminal. About 150 Hutchison supporters showed up.
The Cheney appearance was a major moment for Hutchison's campaign. In show business, corralling a big name is called a "get." And in the constellation of conservative Republicanism, Cheney is a get – a former vice president and prodigious critic of the Obama administration.
Perry has his own "get" – former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is expected to campaign with him before next March's GOP primary. Perry is focused on his party's right wing, a constituency expected to show up in force in the primary. And Palin plays exceptionally well to that crowd.
As for Cheney, while his favorable ratings among Americans overall remain low, he's popular among the GOP faithful. Still, Hutchison needs to bring November Republicans who do not usually vote in the primary to the ballot in March, and it's not clear whether bringing Cheney to Texas helps woo that crowd.
"He adds nothing," said Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Legal Institute, a leading social conservative activist and a Perry supporter.
Clearly, the Hutchison people hope otherwise. Cheney delivered a five-minute speech, citing Hutchison's record of supporting tax cuts in Washington and, he said, leading the fight to kill the income tax in Texas.