Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison released a new television advertisement that centers on one of her best issues against Rick Perry in their fight for the Republican nomination for governor - toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor.
However, the ad takes a distorted turn. Hutchison's ad doesn't use narration, just a TxDOT changeable message sign that states: "This is a free road. For now. Rick Perry wants it to be a toll road. The road your taxes already paid for." But, that's a distortion.
In 2003, Perry certainly wanted TxDOT to have the power to convert free roads to toll roads and signed a bill allowing that. But, despite Perry's strong support for toll roads, there was such a backlash by the public and landowners that by 2005 he backed off.
He signed a second bill that would allow the state to switch a free road to a toll road only if voters in that county approve. The state and Perry can't do anything without voters going along.
The ad also hammered Perry for his support of the Trans Texas Corridor, calling it a "land grab like the 600,000 acres he tried to take from Texans so a foreign company could charge tolls, too."
That is true. The state would have acquired the land, and Spanish-based Cintra was part of the consortium developing the TTC and hoped to build and run it.
Hutchison's commercial claims, "It's time to end the Trans Texas Corridor."
But, not so fast. It's essentially dead. TxDOT told the federal government it won't be building the key part of it between San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth.
What the ad doesn't cover is that Hutchison also supports public-private deals to build toll roads, but with tighter rules.
Give Hutchison credit for the novel way to hit Perry on the vulnerable issue of toll roads.
What I find the most interesting about all of this believe it or not is the process behind these ads... I usually care most about message but the message in Kay's ad is so weak that I think the money spent behind the ad is the real story...
Rick has spent considerably less on television and radio. I don't know the actual numbers, but I would guess Kay has spent upwards of 2 or 3 times as much on television and radio so far... maybe into the 3 or 4 million dollar range... while Rick has probably spent between 1 and 2 million...
To me this means that Kay is either flush with money and we will see this on January 15, or she is just trying to "change the game" early because early voting begins in barely more than one month... I think the smarter way to spend would be to put money toward ads in the second half of January through the 2nd of March... after the debate on the 14th I think a lot more people will be paying attention...